Justice Department intervenes in Redskins' trademark lawsuit

Friday January 9th, 2015

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is intervening in the Washington Redskins' trademark protection lawsuit, according to the Washington Post.

The Department said it will defend the constitutionality of part of the Lanham Act, essentially joining the side of the defendants. The Act forbids trademarks that could disparage or bring people into "contempt or disrepute," according to the Post.

That provision of the Lanham Act was cited by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when it canceled six uses of ''Redskins'' trademarked from 1967 to 1990 in June 2014 after a group of five Native Americans 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 responded by announcing in August they would appeal, and U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled in late October that the team was indeed allowed to sue.

According to the Post, the franchise is arguing that the Lanham Act is "unconstitutionally vague" and that it "effectively chills First Amendment free speech rights."

In November, Judge Lee ruled that the lawsuit should continue, writing that "the Redskins marks are valuable communicable symbols through which the public identifies the team and its players," and that 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 18 months, 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.

On the field, the Redskins went 4-12 this season and finished in last place in the NFC East. The team hired Scot McCloughan as general manager this week.

Ben Estes


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