Redskins Trademark Stripped: What’s Next?

With the announcement June 18, that the US Patent and Trademark Office stripped the Washington Redskins of their trademark protection, one wonders, “What happens next?”

The decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found the team’s name and logo disparaging. It diminishes the Redskins’ legal protection against infringement and hinders the team’s ability to block counterfeit merchandise from entering the country.

So what does this mean? Is it open city on Redskins paraphernalia?

It’s definately a blow against team owner Dan Snyder who has been resolute in his refusal to change the team’s name saying it honors native Americans.

According to The Washington Post, financially the effect is largely symbolic. “The ruling cannot stop the team from selling T-shirts or beer glasses with the moniker or keep the team from trying to defend itself against others who try to profit from the logo. The trademark registrations also remain effective during any appeal process.” says the NFL generates revenue estimated at more than $9 billion annually. It estimated Redskins’ annual revenue at $373 million, but was vague on how much of that comes from merchandise.

Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The ruling pertains to six trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word “Redskin.” spoke to Timothy J. Kelly, chair of the Trademark Practice Group, and partner at the law offices of Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Cinto, which specializes in Intellectual Property Law. He gave insight on what the ruling means financially to Redskins merchandising.

What does this mean?

First point is they haven’t really been stripped. This is a process. They have avenues to appeal. Although the Trademark board has ordered the trademarks be canceled, they don’t get canceled until the appeals process is complete. It’s not a done deal. You should keep in mind that the Washington Redskins have already been down this road. The Trademark Trial appeal board already ruled once that these trademarks should be canceled and the NFL appealed and the district court reversed that decision. Now these new set of petitioners won, but they petitioned essentially on the same evidence that was reversed before. So it’s all still up in the air.

But if they canceled the registration can the Redskins still have trademark rights?

Because they canceled the registrations does not mean Washington Redskins football group or the NFL doesn’t have trademark rights in the term. They have common law trademark rights.

So can I just make a T-shirt now and slap on the Redskins name and logo and sell it on the streets?

RELATED: U.S. Patent Office Cancels Washington Redskins Trademark

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