Wednesday’s decision comes after the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in 1999 stripped the Redskins of trademark protections based on a similar claim filed in 1992. A federal judge overturned the board’s decision in 2003 on the legal grounds that the plaintiffs waited too long to bring their case — 25 years passed between 1967, when the first trademark was granted, and the time the case was brought. That ruling did not render a decision on whether the name Redskins was offensive, but rather it simply spoke to the Native American group’s lack of evidence and the “legal sufficiency” of the trademark board’s decision.
The Redskins will now have the option of challenging the board’s ruling in either the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which would review information presented to the board, or in U.S. District Court, where the team could move for a full trial and introduce additional evidence.
The technicalities about the length of time plaintiffs waited to challenge the trademark should not be an issue in any future appeals because the plaintiffs in the latest case were all younger than 24 at the time they joined the challenge and could not have brought any challenge before turning 18, Ms. Osenga said.
“I think the five challengers they have now are spot-on. No one is going to argue them now,” she said.
Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo activist and one of five petitioners who brought the case, said she was “extremely happy” with the ruling.
“It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans,” she said. “We filed our petition eight years ago, and it has been a tough battle ever since. I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed.”
In recent months a growing chorus of activists and lawmakers has called on Mr. Snyder to rename the team, including President Obama, who said he would think about changing the name. Last month, 50 U.S. senators wrote to the team’s owner, urging him to rename the franchise. But Mr. Snyder has steadfastly insisted he would keep the name Redskins, saying it honors Native Americans.
Asked in May 2013 by USA Today if he would consider changing the name if the team lost the trademark battle, Mr. Snyder was unequivocal.
“We’ll never change the name,” the paper quotes him as saying. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
The franchise originally was located in Boston and was called the Braves. George Preston Marshall purchased the team in 1932. In an effort to honor then-coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, an American Indian, the team was renamed the Redskins the next year.
But that narrative came under fire recently after an 81-year-old published interview surfaced in which Marshall told The Associated Press the story was not true.
The franchise moved to Washington in 1937.
Polls produced by both sides suggest a split in how American Indians feel about the name, and public opinion has generally been on the side of the team. A poll of 1,004 people jointly conducted by The Associated Press and GfK in April 2013 showed 79 percent of Americans favor keeping the name.
But a high-profile campaign mounted during the football season by the Oneida Indian Nation and recent controversy over racist remarks made by the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers have renewed debate about whether the football team’s name is inappropriate.