Federal law prohibits trademarks on racial slurs.
The United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Washington Redskins trademark case, denying the petition for review before a lower court had a chance to rule on the matter.
The Redskins were appealing a decision to cancel their trademarks over concerns their name disparages Native Americans. Federal law prohibits trademarks on racial slurs.
The team will not lose the trademark until appeals have run their course through the legal system, but they can still be allowed to use the “Redskins” nickname if they seek protection under state law.
In June 2014, the United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled six federal trademark registrations for the Redskins, saying the nickname is “disparaging to Native Americans” and cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits trademark protection on offensive or disparaging language.
In a separate matter, the justices will decide whether the trademark law violates the First Amendment. The case involves The Slants, an Asian-American rock band that was denied a trademark on the ground that it disparages Asians.
A federal court earlier ruled in favor of the band, while the Redskins had hoped that the court would hear both cases together.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder has repeatedly said that he will not change the nickname despite the opposition.
The original lawsuit was brought by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, who sued the team and claimed that the name “Redskins” disparaged Native Americans. She said the nickname is a racist slur that never should have been trademarked in the first place. Washington has filed for trademarks on "Redskins" four times since 1967.
The team has used the "Redskins" name since 1932.
– Scooby Axson