September 15, 2009

Native Americans' Challenge to Redskins Trademark Still Alive

Native Americans challenged the Washington Redskins' trademark in Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc. as immediately cancellable under the Lanham Act as "offensive". The trial court ruled in their favor, but the appellate court reversed essentially ruling that the plaintiffs had waited too long to allege that the word "redskin", a racial slur on par with the N-word, was offensive to them. The legal term for this prejudicial delay is laches, though the doctrine is rarely invoked. In this case its use was particularly surprising, as the Lanham Act specifies that a trademark can be cancelled at any time if it meets the offensiveness standard.

Today, Above the Law, and others reported that the plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari to have the case heard by the Supreme Court. If four justices wish for the case to be heard, the court will take the case. If the Court rules that the trademark is invalid, it will be immediately revoked. Anyone with a silk-screen machine will be able to begin producing merchandise.

Even if the Court refuses to hear the case, the plaintiffs' attorney has a second group of plaintiffs ready to go. This group is younger and thus the laches/delay issue will be off the table.

For as long as the Redskins are in existence, groups will attempt to force the organization to change its name and possibly mascot.

2 Responses:

"ben" said...

As this blog knows, I am a true Washington Redskins fan. When the day finally comes that they have to change names, I will be conflicted because of silly emotions, despite it being obviously the right thing to do.

It's 2009. I mean really, take a step back and think about the name. This is going to be one of those things where the next generation's jaw is going to drop when they realize, you mean they were called the Redskins that recently?

J-Red said...

This is from a city that felt "Bullets" sent the wrong message to its basketball fans. I am not sure how it can be the most PC city in American for everything except the Redskins.

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