Washington Redskins lose trademark protection; now what happens?
Washington Redskins name is not subject to trademark protection because "based on the evidence properly before us ... these (trademark) registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered." The Redskins initially registered the trademarks in 1967, but in recent years the criticism over the name has increased in intensity. So far, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused all requests to change the team name and the vast majority of Redskin fans have supported this decision. But with this ruling to strip the team of their trademark protections, the pressure to change the team name will likely grow. What's the immediate impact of the ruling? Assuming a stay of the ruling is granted -- that is, the ruling is not immediately enforced pending appeal -- the Redskins will have the right to appeal this decision and seek to overturn the ruling. If overturning this decision sounds unlikely, think again, the same ruling occurred in 1999, but was overturned due to a technicality on appeal. The appeal process will likely take years. During that time, nothing will change. That's why the Redskins official statement says as follows: "We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's divided ruling will be overturned on appeal. This case is no different than an earlier case, where the Board cancelled the Redskins' trademark registrations, and where a federal district court disagreed and reversed the Board." What this decision does do, however, is increase the political pressure that has been building on the Redskins to change their name. What's Redskins owner Dan Snyder's end game here? Snyder has made the decision to fight all demands that he change the name of the team. From a business perspective, that's probably smart. Here's why: if he voluntarily changes the team name without being forced to do so he alienates a certain segment of the Redskins fan base. These fans would forever blame Snyder for bowing down to opponents of the team name. If Snyder fights demands for a name change three things can happen: a) he wins, in which case he doesn't have to change anything. b) he loses, in which case he can claim he's been forced to change the team name. Changing the team name would likely result in a huge increase in merchandise sales as everyone rushed to buy the new gear, but Snyder would be able to claim he had no choice. c. Snyder can lose the trademark protections and continue to run the franchise without them. Could the Redskins keep their name without trademark protection? Sure, the team could. How much money would the loss of trademark protection actually cost the Redskins if the team continued to sue for copyright violations? Probably not that much. After all, the money that teams make off their trademarks is comparatively small when compared to television and ticket money. Plus, even without trademark protection, major companies aren't going to risk copyright lawsuits in order to make a relatively insubstantial sum of money off Washington Redskins products. While the plaintiffs who filed this lawsuit believe the Redskins will be forced to change their name without trademark protection, that seems unlikely. The real threat to the name comes from political pressure, threats from the FCC over television broadcasts, and advertisers bailing from association with the team and league. So long as that doesn't happen, the Redskins name will continue.The United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled on Wednesday that the