“This victory was a long time coming and reflects the hard work of many attorneys at our firm,” said lead attorney Jesse Witten, of Drinker Biddle & Reath.
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 different trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word “Redskin.”
“We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case,” Alfred Putnam Jr., the chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath, said. “The dedication and professionalism of our attorneys and the determination of our clients have resulted in a milestone victory that will serve as an historic precedent.”
In addition, Native Americans have won at this stage before, in 1999. But the team and the NFL won an appeal to federal court in 2009. The court did not rule on the merits of the case, however, but threw it out, saying that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to file it. The team is likely to make the same appeal this time.
Robert Raskopf, a lawyer who has been representing the team since the first case was filed in 1992, was not concerned about the ruling.
“We’ve seen this story before,” he said. “And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.
“We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s divided ruling will be overturned on appeal. This case is no different than an earlier case, where the Board cancelled the Redskins’ trademark registrations, and where a federal district court disagreed and reversed the Board.”
Raskopf said the team’s trademark registrations would remain effective during the appeal.
The current lawsuit was brought eight years ago by Amanda Blackhorse, Phillip Glover, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Jillian Pappan and Courtney Tsotigh.
“It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans,” Blackhorse said in a statement. “I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed.”
The Redskins name change controversy has been gathering steam over the past few years. U.S. senators, former and current NFL players and others all have called for team owner Dan Snyder to change the name.
Snyder has steadfastly refused to consider a name change, saying the name and logo honor Native Americans.
Snyder declined to comment as he left the practice field at Redskins Park, the team’s training facility in Ashburn, following a morning practice Wednesday at an offseason minicamp. Snyder did not verbally acknowledge a reporter’s question on the the ruling, instead waving his hand and continuing to walk.
Team officials said there would be a statement on the ruling later in the day.
Bruce Allen, the team’s president and general manager, said as he walked off the practice field Wednesday: “When the statement comes out, you’ll get it.”
Asked whether the Redskins believe they can continue to use their team name under the circumstances, Allen said: “Did you read it?... We’re fine. We’re fine.”
But Gabriel Feldman, the director of the sports law program at Tulane University, said it’s possible the ruling could affect the view that league officials and owners of other NFL franchises have of the matter. The sport’s revenue-sharing system gives them all a stake.
“It’s a great question to raise,” Feldman said. “Maybe this is the tipping point for the rest of the league. This is a unique business.”
source: washingtonpost.com BY THERESA VARGAS