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disparaging trademarks

Redskins' Trademarks Canceled

A federal judge has ordered the Washington Redskins football teams' federal trademark registrations canceled, The Washington Post's Ian Shapira reports. U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee upheld a ruling by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which found that the team's name is offensive to American Indians and may disparage people. The win was at the summary judgment stage.

Lee reasoned that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that Texas didn't violate the First Amendment when it banned specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag means that the government is exempt from First Amendment scrutiny. As a result, the judge ruled that the Lanham Act's ban on disparaging trademarks doesn't violate the First Amendment.

Could Trademark Law Change From Redskins Fight?

NPR's Kenya Downs mused in a recent post whether the fight over the propriety of the Washington Redskins' trademark could end up changing this body of law. After years and years of efforts by American Indian activists to have the trademark canceled on the grounds that it is racially offensive and disparaging, petitioners won the cancellation of the trademark and the U.S. Department of Justice also has decided to intervene in the lawsuit. The team's owner argues that the Lanham Act, which prohibits disparaging trademarks, is too vague and an unconstitutional impediment to free speech, but trademark attorneys told Downs that the First Amendment challenge to the Lanham Act will be a tough sell. However, lawyers said the case's outcome, whether the football team wins or not, will impact whether ethnic groups can challenge trademarks as offensive.

Younger Generation of American Indians Challenge Washington Redskins Trademark

A younger group of American Indians are challenging the Washington Redskins trademark after prior challengers to the trademark lost on the grounds that they waited too long to bring their challenge. "The current petitioners are five Native Americans from different tribes who say they are offended by the team’s name. A decision by the trademark appeal board could come any day," The Wall Street Journal reported. The footbal team argues that what matters is how a term was perceived at the time of its registration, not whether it is disparaging in 2013, The Journal also reported.

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