The US Patent and Trademark Office has moved to cancel the federal registration of the Washington Redskins’ name after it agreed that it is “disparaging of Native Americans”.
The decision – which the American football team intends to appeal – is a victory for American Indians and their supporters for whom “redskins” is a racially charged word.
In a statement, the Patent Office said five Native American petitioners had “met their burden to establish that the term ‘Redskins’ was disparaging of Native Americans, when used in relation to professional football services”.
While the team could still keep using the name, cancellation would result in the loss of protection from copyright infringement and counterfeiting that comes with federal registration.
The Redskins’ trademark lawyer Bob Raskopf says the team will “of course” appeal the decision just as it did successfully back in 2003.
“We are confident we will prevail once again,” said Raskopf in a statement from Ashburn, Virginia, where the team is holding a week-long pre-season mini training camp.
“The registrations will remain effective while the case is on appeal.”
Dan Snyder, owner of the National Football League (NFL) franchise, has been adamant about retaining the name despite a growing national campaign spearheaded by the Oneida tribe in upstate New York.
“If the most basic sense of morality, decency and civility has not yet convinced the Washington team and the NFL to stop using this hateful slur, then hopefully today’s patent ruling will,” said Oneida representative Ray Halbritter.
The long-simmering issue gained national attention in October when President Barack Obama, on a Sunday political talk show, said he’d consider renaming the Redskins if he was the team owner.