Washington Redskins face new trademark hearing

American football franchise the Washington Redskins is facing another legal battle over its trademark due to campaigners deeming it offensive to Native Americans.

A group of Native Americans are to go before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to argue their case that the football team should lose its federal trademark protection for the term ‘Redskins’.

The basis for their argument is that the law prohibits disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable names being trademarked. Many Native Americans believe the term falls into a few of these categories, even though the football team has said it doesn’t think the term is offensive at all.

It is not the first time the Washington Redskins has come under fire from campaigners. A previous case has been brought to court but was thrown out due to the term not being deemed offensive.

In 1992 Suzan Shown Harjo argued that the team’s name should not have trademark protection because of its disparaging nature. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office actually ruled in Ms. Harjo’s favor in 1999, however the decision was overturned after an appeal in 2005.

The basis to the overturning of the ruling was that the plaintiffs were too old and that they should have filed the complaint sooner. However the new case is being put forward by a different group of Native Americans, none of whom are aged over 24.

The football team used to be called the Braves, but adopted the Redskins name and logo in 1933 when the team was based in Boston, Massachusetts. The team has said the name was changed to honor William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz, a Native American who coached the team at the time.

A formal trademark for the name was granted in 1967 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It has been renewed many times since then.

The Washington Redskins clearly value their brand and trademark highly, having spent millions of dollars protecting and promoting it. It has become one of the most recognized franchises in the National Football League and will therefore be eager to retain the trademark.