What the Cancellation of the Redskins Trademark Means for the Team: A Brief Explanation from a Trademark Attorney

Wednesday June 18th, 2014

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With news emerging that The United States Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, calling the football team’s name “disparaging to Native Americans,” many are left wondering what comes next in what has become one of the most hotly contested topics in sports.

To clarify what this ruling means for the team and what the team's next move is, we reached out to Los Angeles-based patent, trademark & copyright lawyer Milord A. Keshishian. He provided the answers below:

What do the trademark cancellations mean for the team?

"The Redskins trademark cancellations divest the team from the advantages afforded to federally registered trademarks, e.g. presumption of validity and enforceability, statutory damages, etc. The team, however, can still be able to assert its common-law rights (established through actual use of the mark in commerce) in the Redskins trademarks, but any potential defendants would certainly assert an unenforceability defense."

What are the team's next steps?

The Redskins will appeal the Office's most recent decision, as they did in '99, but now it will be a tougher battle because of the heightened racial awareness caused by Donald Sterling's scandal and Plaintiffs' timely filed cancellation proceeding.

For further clarity on the '99 case, the Office cancelled the registrations but was reversed by the court on appeal because the plaintiffs had waited too long after turning eighteen years old to file the case and the equitable defense of laches applied.

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