The Slatest

Judge Orders Cancellation of “Disparaging” Washington NFL Trademarks

Washington NFL franchise owner Dan Snyder at his team’s game with the Philadelphia Eagles in September 2014. Washington lost.

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A federal judge has ordered the cancellation of the Washington NFL team’s registered trademarks, upholding the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s 2014 ruling that the trademarks are “disparaging” to Native Americans. (Names that “may disparage” individuals or groups are ineligible for federal trademarking under the Lanham Act.)

This doesn’t, however, mean the team will be forced to stop using its nickname, only that it may eventually lose certain trademark protections. As the Washington Post notes, the cancellation doesn’t go into effect until the team has “exhausted the appeals process in the federal court system,” and protections are still available at the state level.


The team insists that its name is not insulting to Native Americans, a dubious assertion disputed by groups including Change the Mascot, the National Congress of American Indians and the five Native activists who, with the assistance of the large national law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, are pursuing the trademark case. (A number of alleged American Indians that the franchise has affiliated itself with over the years, meanwhile, have later been revealed to have exaggerated or falsified their Native credentials.)

Washington finished last season with a record of 4-12 and has only won a single playoff game during the 16-year tenure of current team owner Daniel Snyder.