Judge rules Redskins can sue group that objected to team trademarks

Saturday November 1st, 2014

A federal judge has decided that the Washington Redskins organization is permitted to sue the Native Americans who complained to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office about the team's name, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

In addition to suing the group of five Native Americans, the team has asked Judge Gerald Bruce Lee to reverse the Trademark Office's decision to remove Washington's protections for six trademarks registered between 1967 and 1990.

Trademark and patent officials canceled the trademarks this summer, judging that they violated federal regulations against protections for disparaging or offensive words and images.

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The team has argued that the name is not offensive and that abrogating the trademarks constitutes a violation of its free speech rights and would take its property without compensation. Robert Raskopf, the lawyer for Washington, has also said the five Native Americans should be subject to legal action because they first filed the petition with the trademark board.

According to the AP report, losing trademark protections could cost the team tens of millions of dollars per year.

The team's trademark protections will remain while the suit makes its way through the courts. Moreover, the board's decision did not apply to the team's logo.

While activists have pushed for decades to change the team's name, the campaign has gained steam this year, with several politicians chiming in ahead of elections this November.

A protest planned for before Washington's road game this week against the Minnesota Vikings is expected to attract "thousands" of people.

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Washington owner Dan Snyder has thus far resisted pressure change the team's name and has said that he would never do so. 

The team's on-field performance has not mirrored that of its legal team, however. Currently 3-5, Washington is fourth place in the NFC East ahead of its game Sunday in Minnesota.

- Christopher Woody
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