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Redskins’ logos still subject of court battle
A years-long effort to cancel six Washington Redskins‘ federal trademarks is scheduled for trial next month before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, according to board documents.
The petition by five Native Americans, Blackhorse vs. Pro-Football, Inc., asserts the team’s name and logo are offensive. Filed in 2006, it’s identical to an earlier case, Harjo vs. Pro-Football, Inc.
In the Harjo case, started in 1992, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled the six trademarks in 1999. That was overturned on appeal when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the seven petitioners waited too long to file suit against trademarks first granted in 1967 and there wasn’t sufficient evidence for the board to cancel the trademarks. The case ended in 2009 when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.
Suspended pending outcome of the Harjo case, the Blackhorse case resumed in 2010.
Now the trial is scheduled to start in late February, ruled on by a panel of three administrative trademark judges. Each side has 30 days to present testimony, followed by a 15-day rebuttal period for the petitioners.
“I don’t think this whole thing becomes ripe for decision until November or December,” said Jesse Witten, lead counsel for the petitioners.
Unlike a traditional trial, there is no in-person hearing before the three judges. Each side simply files evidence which, for the petitioners, consists of more than 8,000 pages from the Harjo case.
Amanda Blackhorse, the lead petitioner, declined to discuss her involvement in the case.
The six trademarks challenged include the team’s primary logo of a Native American’s silhouette in a circle with two feathers attached, a spear and the name of the Redskinettes cheerleaders.
The petitioners must demonstrate “the Redskins trademarks ‘may disparage’ Native Americans and ‘bring them into contempt or disrepute,’” according to a pretrial order from the board.
If the trademarks are canceled, the Redskins wouldn’t be required to change their name or logo. The trademarks would be unregistered and, according to a joint stipulation filed last month, “the value of the Registrant’s trademarks may be affected.”
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