Washington Redskins’ Federal Trademark Protection Cancelled: What Does That Mean For The Controversial Logo?

Washington Redskins federal trademark

A federal judge has ordered that the Washington Redskins’ federal trademark protection over the team’s logo be cancelled, the latest in a string of legal decisions chipping away at the controversial logo.

As the Washington Post reports, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee upheld a 2014 ruling that the team’s logo is offensive and, as such, doesn’t qualify for federal copyright protection.

The L.A. Times notes that federal trademark law does not allow copyright protection for logos or names that “may disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute.”

What the federal trademark protection ruling means for the team in a practical sense is actually very little. The ruling allows the team to continue using the name “Redskins,” and the latest ruling is far from the last word on the team’s copyright battles: the team will likely take the battle all the way to the Supreme Court — a process that can take years. And in fact, Wednesday’s ruling won’t even go into effect unless and until all possible appeals have been exhausted.

Further, the ruling still allows the Redskins to maintain copyright protection under state law in Virginia.

The L.A. Times presents a worst-case scenario for what the eventual removal of federal copyright protection — if it ever comes to that — could mean for the Redskins.

“Even without federal registrations, the Redskins still have common-law trademark protection but are not afforded all the protections of federal law that include the potential to recover actual damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and injunctions.”

In other words, the Redskins wouldn’t be able to sue if someone mis-used their logo.

The Washington Redskins’ team name and its logo — a stylized depiction of a Native American wearing feathers — has been the subject of intense controversy over the years, albeit sporadically. But Native American groups have been turning up the heat on the team in the past few years, using the federal courts, and public opinion, to try to compel the team to retire the name and the logo.

Team owner Dan Snyder — who has vowed to never change the Redskins’ name as long as he lives — sees things differently. In a 2014 ESPN interview, Snyder insisted that the Redskins’ name and logo are signs of respect for the team’s first coach, William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz, and his Native American heritage.

“It’s just historical truths, and I’d like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor, respect.”

Do you find the Washington Redskins’ name offensive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/miker]