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Washington Redskins Lose Trademark (Forever, Hopefully)

Soon, Robert Griffin III might have a different, less offensive team name across his chest.
Soon, Robert Griffin III might have a different, less offensive team name across his chest.
Photo by Joseph Glorioso

Imagine if someone wanted to name their professional sports franchise the Washington White Guys. Or the Washington Black Men. People might take offense to that.

The U.S. Patent Office would; it made that clear in its Wednesday ruling on the NFL's Washington Redskins' name. The office said the team's name is "disparaging of Native Americans" and canceled the team's federal trademarks for the name.

According to the Associated Press, even after the 2-1 ruling, the team doesn't lose its trademark protection on the name, and can keep the name during an appeal, which is likely. Owner Dan Snyder has championed the "tradition" argument for the name. Initially named the Boston Braves, the team started sharing Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox in 1933, and changed its name to the Redskins. (Cross promotion! Creative!)

The case, filed by a group of Native Americans in 2006, does not include the NFL as a whole, just Washington's team. The U.S. Patent Office's decision involves six registered trademarks relating to the word Redskin, but not the team's logo. The team can still use the name, but will not have the financial protections that come with a trademark, the AP reported.

HISD felt a pang of guilt for some of its schools' nicknames, and changed them last April. Two schools with names considered offensive to Native Americans - the Hamilton Middle School Indians and the Lamar High School Redskins - changed their names. Hamilton will be the Huskies, and Lamar will go by the Texans.

The NFL's administration doesn't feel as culturally inclined. League Commissioner Roger Goodell said in January that nine out of 10 Native Americans support the Redskin name. So rather than rely on Goodell and Snyder's political correctness, a lawsuit will have to strong arm Washington into a name change. There have been lawsuits against the Redskins' name in the past, but none have been successful. Let's hope this one sticks.


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