In what might be the most significant pressure put on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change his team’s name, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the team’s trademarks on the basis that it is “disparaging to Native Americans.”
In its 2-1 ruling issued on Wednesday, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, an independent tribunal within the USPTO, wrote it was charged with determining only whether the mark was offensive to the people it referenced, instead of to the entire population. Five Native Americans, representing four tribes, brought the case against the league.
“Petitioners have found a preponderance of evidence that a substantial amount of Native Americans found the term Redskins to be disparaging when used in connection with professional football,” the ruling said. “While this may reveal differing opinions with the community, it does not negate the opinions of those who find it disparaging.”
The ruling does not force the NFL or Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name, but trademarks, registered between 1967 and 1990, will no longer be protected under federal law if the NFL and the Redskins lose an appeal to the U.S. District Court.
Bob Raskopf, the trademark attorney for the Redskins, said the team will appeal the ruling and is confident it will successfully overturn Wednesday’s ruling and noted that the team’s trademark registrations will remain valid while the case is appealed.