Football season may be over, but the trademark battle over the Washington Redskins’ team name, mascot, and logo is raging on in federal court. The NFL team has faced heated controversy over its continued use of the term “Redskins,” which is considered by some to be an offensive racial slur for Native Americans. See Redskins Forever?, The New Yorker (May 10, 2013), http://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/redskins-forever.
On March 5th, the ACLU filed an amicus brief in Pro-Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse et al. supporting the NFL team’s right to register six trademarks (the “Redskins marks”). The matter is currently before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, following an appeal by Pro-Football, Inc. (d/b/a the Washington Redskins) of a June 2014 order by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) cancelling the Redskins marks. Brief of American Civil Liberties Union et al. as Amici Curiae Supporting Plaintiff, Pro-Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse et al., No. 12-1043 (E.D. Va. Mar. 5, 2015) ECF No. 76-2 (henceforth “Brief”).
In rejecting the Redskins marks, the TTAB relied on Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act which prohibits registration of any trademark consisting of “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute,” 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), ultimately finding that the Redskins marks were disparaging to Native Americans, Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc., 111 U.S.P.Q.2d 1080, 2014 WL 2757516, at *29(T.T.A.B. 2014).