A federal judge in Virginia has ordered the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to cancel six of the Washington Redskins’ registered trademarks because their depiction of an Indian brave is considered offensive to Native Americans.
“The evidence before the Court supports the legal conclusion that between 1967 [when the first Redskins’ trademark was registered] and 1990, the Redskins Marks consisted of matter that ‘may disparage’ a substantial composite of Native Americans,” U.S. District Judge Gerald Lee wrote in his July 8 ruling in Pro-Football Inc. v. Blackhorse.
In his 70-page decision, Lee rejected the Redskins’ argument that the trademark cancellation was an infringement of the teams’ First and Fifth Amendment rights.
“The federal trademark registration program is government speech and is therefore exempt from First Amendment scrutiny,” he ruled, adding that “a trademark registration is not considered property under the Fifth Amendment.”
The order does not prevent the pro football team from continuing to use the logo. However, the loss of federal trademark protection could jeopardize some of its commercial and licensing activities.