USPTO Revokes Washington Redskin’s Trademark Protection

September 3, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. disparaging /dɪˈspær ɪ dʒɪŋ/ (adj.) – expressing comments that look down on someone or something
Example: The coach was fined because of his disparaging comments about the player.

2. lawsuit /ˈlɔˌsut/ (n.) – a case brought by a complainant that has to be decided in the court
Example: The manager filed a lawsuit against a player who violated the contract.

3. plaintiff /ˈpleɪn tɪf/ (n.) – a person who files a lawsuit in a court
Example: The plaintiff demanded $1 billion for damages.

4. repercussion /ˌri pərˈkʌʃ ən / (n.) – a negative effect that occurs for a long time
Example: The repercussion for the player’s bad behavior is suspension.

5. overturn /ˌoʊ vərˈtɜrn / (v.) – to officially cancel or reverse a previous decision Example: Unexpectedly, the court overturned the rule filed against the team.


Read the text below.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has withdrawn the trademark protection of Washington Redskin for being disparaging to Native Americans.

The decision is in response to the lawsuit filed by Native American Groups in a case known as Blackhorse vs. Pro Football, Inc.

On the evidence presented by the plaintiffs, the petitioners established that the term “Redskin” offended Native Americans when used in relation to football services at the various times of registration, said the USPTO. Since the decision could have serious repercussions to the team, the Washington Redskin decided to file an appeal.

The USPTO explained that the cancellation of Redskin’s trademark does not mean the team must change the name and the logo. Instead, it just loses the government’s protection of ownership. This means that they will have a tougher time to prevent people from selling and manufacturing Redskin t-shirts and other merchandise. Daniel Snyder [SNAHY-der], team owner of Washington Redskins, showed unwillingness to change the team’s name.  

Redskin attorney, Bob Raskopf, said that the team is confident that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will overturn the decision. The team’s confidence is not unfounded since the same case was filed once before. The board cancelled Redskin’s trademark but it was later reversed because of insufficient evidence. With this, the court concluded that the marks that may disparage Native Americans "fail to apply the correct legal standard to its own findings of facts."     

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think Washington Redskin should change their name? Why or why not?
·         What are the possible effects if the team changes its name?

Discussion B

·         What are the trademarks of the natives in your country?
·         How do you and your people show respect for them?

September 3, 2014