Court rules Redskins' trademark protection lawsuit should proceed

Tuesday November 25th, 2014

A Virginia federal court Tuesday declined to dismiss the Washington Redskins' lawsuit against the parties who had the team's trademark protection stripped, according to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.

According to Kaplan, Amanda Blackhorse, one of the defendants in the lawsuit, had argued that she was no longer a party to the case, but U.S. district court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled against Blackhorse, arguing that ruling in her favor would result in the loss of the Redskins' appeal rights.

In June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six uses of ''Redskins'' trademarked from 1967 to 1990 after Blackhorse and four others led a campaign against the franchise's trademark protection. The patent office explained its ruling by saying that the Redskins name is ''disparaging of Native Americans.''

The Redskins said in August they would appeal the ruling, and Judge Lee ruled in late October that the team was allowed to sue Blackhorse and her cohorts.

While Judge Lee didn't rule Monday on whether "Redskins" is a slur as the Patent Office did, he wrote that "the Redskins marks are valuable communicable symbols through which the public identifies the team and its players," according to Kaplan.

Lee also said there is "no dispute" that professional football would be injured by the loss of the Redskins' trademarks, which the franchise will continue to be allowed to use until its appeal process is completed.

Opposition to the Redskins name has risen over the past year, with those calling for the team's name to be changed arguing that it's racist and offensive to Native Americans. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has been adamant that he'll never change the name, maintaining that it is part of the team's tradition and that it's not offensive.

A recent protest of the name in Minneapolis held before Washington's game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 2 drew thousands of demonstrators.

On the field, the Redskins are 3-8 this season and tied for last place in the NFC East.

Ben Estes

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