Court Battles

Redskins ask Supreme Court to review trademark case

The Washington Redskins team has asked the Supreme Court to hear its case challenging the cancellation of its trademark, pending the court’s review of a similar case involving a band called The Slants. 

In a petition filed with the court on Monday, the NFL team asked the court to take up its case if it also agrees to review a federal appellate court ruling related to The Slants’ trademark. That ruling found that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act is invalid under the First Amendment.

{mosads}That clause in the law bars registration of trademarks that “may disparage … persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”

The appellate court ruled in The Slants case that the clause “imposes impermissible content-based and viewpoint-discriminatory burdens on protected speech” and reversed a decision from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to refuse to register The Slants, a name the office said disparages Asian-Americans.

The Redskins have asked the Supreme Court to hold off on weighing the constitutionality of the disparagement clause until after the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals hears the team’s appeal of the PTO’s 2014 cancellation of its “Redskins” trademark.

If the court, however, agrees to hear an appeal from the federal government in The Slants’ case, the Redskins want the court to hear its case at the same time. 

The team is appealing a decision by the Eastern District Court of Virginia that upheld the PTO’s ruling, which found the Redskins’ trademarks to be “disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.” 

The team argues that it lacked “fair notice” because the PTO had registered the Redskins marks six times between 1967 and 1990 without objection from anyone and each time had concluded that the marks were not disparaging to Native Americans.

The team also claims that the term “disparage” is unconstitutionally vague.

Tags Disparagement Redskin The Slants trademark United States Patent and Trademark Office United States trademark law Washington Redskins Washington Redskins trademark dispute

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