In a landmark decision, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six federal trademarks for the Washington Redskins because its name is “disparaging to Native Americans.”
The PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled Wednesday morning on a case filed by five Native Americans.
“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote in its opinion.
Plaintiff Suzan Shown Harjo said she was “thrilled and delighted” by the decision.
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“The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with our clients that the team’s name and trademarks disparage Native Americans. The Board ruled that the Trademark Office should never have registered these trademarks in the first place,” Jesse Witten, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a press release. “We presented a wide variety of evidence – including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups – to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur.”
“It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans,” plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse said in a statement. “We filed our petition eight years ago and it has been a tough battle ever since.
"I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed," Blackhorse added. "The team’s name is racist and derogatory. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – if people wouldn’t dare call a Native American a ‘redskin’ because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?”
The football team will appeal the case.