NFL: Washington Redskins lose trademark ruling

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled the Washington Redskins’ trademark registration after ruling the team’s name is “disparaging of Native Americans”.

The USPTO’s Trial and Appeal Board upheld a complaint lodged by five Native Americans, a hugely significant ruling in the long-standing battle between the team and a number of groups who want to see the name changed.

The Redskins will be able to retain their trademark protection during any appeal.

In a statement, the USPTO said: “The United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board – an independent administrative tribunal within the USPTO – has determined, based on the evidentiary record in the proceeding before it and on applicable law, that the petitioners met their burden to establish that the term “Redskins” was disparaging of Native Americans, when used in relation to professional football services, at the times the various registrations involved in the cancellation proceeding were issued.”

The ruling will not prevent the Redskins from continuing to use the name – first adopted by the team, formerly known as the Braves, when they were based in Boston in 1933 – but their loss of trademark status will have a major impact on merchandising and related revenues.

The team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, has been committed to keeping the team name, and in March launched the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, a fund established to help Native American groups.