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Could trademark ruling spell end of "Redskins" as team nickname?

A few months back, we wrote on our Sacramento intellectual property blog about the Washington Redskins football team and its efforts to preserve the club's name as a trademark. We mentioned that a few years ago, a computer software firm was turned down by the patent and trademark office to use "Redskins" as a trademark for its name. Now, another case has come before the government requesting to trademark "Redskins" -- and, once again, the answer was no.

This time, a company wanted to trademark "Redskins Hog Rinds" as a name for its snack food. However, the patent and trademark office refused the request on the basis that "Redskins" is a slang term and is derogatory.

This could have a major impact on the football team's crusade to keep its trademark, which goes back decades. The trademark office said that the term, according to its definitions, is offensive and even taboo in some circles.

It is certainly possible that the same rationale could be applied to the NFL team's name. If this were to happen, the team has a few options. It could keep calling itself the Redskins, but without any kind of trademark protection; this could open the door to anyone who wanted to sell merchandise with the Redskins name.

Another option -- which the team's owner has said he would never consider -- would be to trademark a new name and use it going forward. Some have suggested that the team do this proactively and not wait for the trademark to be revoked, but it seems as though the team will use it as long as it can.

Source: The Washington Post, "Agency rejects trademark of ‘Redskins Hog Rinds,’ calling term ‘derogatory’," Theresa Vargas, Jan. 6, 2014

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