Since the Washington Redskins essentially won a victory at the Supreme Court with the SCOTUS decision in Matal v. Tam, where SCOTUS ruled, on free-speech grounds, that federal trademark registrations may be granted even in most cases where they are considered derogatory. The high court’s unanimous ruling is a blow to the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act, linchpin of the case by which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s federal trademark registrations for the football team in 2014.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL team owner Daniel Snyder has won his fight with the federal trademark office to retain patent protection for the team’s name. But before he takes another victory lap, Mr. Snyder would do well to reflect on what exactly it is that he has “won.” The team’s name is still as hurtful and offensive as ever, and the controversy it stirs will likely only intensify, not go away. So pardon us for not offering our congratulations.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision affirming core free-speech principles in a case brought by an Asian American band calling itself the Slants, the Justice Department last week moved to end the football team’s case. It sent a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that moved for dismissal with a judgment in favor of the team. The suit stemmed from the 2014 decision of a federal trademark appeal board to cancel the National Football League team’s trademark registrations on the grounds that they were disparaging of Native Americans and, as such, ran afoul of 70-year-old federal law prohibiting registration of trademarks likely to disparage people or groups.