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Six-Year Battle Over Washington Redskins Name Continues
A legal battle involving the Washington Redskins and a group of Native Americans is still raging today as attorneys for the group are set to file documents that will ask federal authorities to defeat multiple trademark registrations of the team. The documents claim that the team’s name is a racial slur. The lawsuit, Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc., probably will not have a large impact on the operations of the team. The reason for this is that trademark authorities do not have the power to stop the sale of products that have Redskin logos on them. The authorities also do not have the power to order damages. If the team begins to operate without a registered trademark then counterfeiters will find it easier to sell bad gear.
Jesse Witten, from Drinker Biddle & Reath, is representing the group of Native Americans. The group’s leader is Amanda Blackhorse. Witten said, the petition “makes an important statement about the disparaging nature of the team’s name. We know the vast majority of team’s fans aren’t racist, but the fact remains they’re rooting for a team whose name is a racial slur.” The trademarks being disputed include the cheerleaders, known as the Reskinettes, and the logo that features a Native American on the helmets.
The lawsuit was filed in 2006 with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which is a section of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The suit was paused from 2006 to 2010 as another case, Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo, climbed through the courts. The team won the suit in 2003 when a judge said that there was no evidence to prove that the name Redskins is disparaging enough to stop a trademark. Robert L. Raskopf, from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, is the attorney for Pro-Football, Inc., which owns the Redskins.
“We think the trial judge in D.C. a long time ago ruled there was no substantial evidence the [trade]mark disparaged Native Americans,” Raskopf said. “The team is one of most well-known pro football teams in the U.S. and a well-respected franchise, that’s what the Washington Redskins means to the public and we’ve demonstrated that to the satisfaction of a court.”