Radio stations allowed to air controversial team name

| Dec 30, 2014 | Trademark Law

Sacramento readers who have been following the ongoing debate about the use of the word Redskins in connection with the Washington, D.C., football team may be interested in a recent decision made by the Federal Communications Commission. According to a Dec. 19 source, the FCC dismissed a petition filed against a radio station by the owner of the Washington Redskins football team.

The petition was filed against a radio station that frequently used the team’s trademark name. In a written opinion, the FCC clarified that it is not hate speech, profanity or obscenity to use the word Redskins on the radio. Additionally, the FCC ruled that the use of the word does not violate any of its rules.

The FCC’s stated position on the matter is that licensees’ rights to choose their own programming are protected under the First Amendment. The FCC permits licensees to use their own discretion in choosing programming that serves the interests and needs of their audiences, even if the content is considered offensive to a particular ethnic group or minority. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the rights of citizens to exercise freedom of speech, among other rights.

It can be difficult to distinguish the difference between a media outlet’s use of a brand or trademarked name as free speech or trademark infringement. A lawyer with a background in intellectual property cases might evaluate a person or media outlet’s use of a trademarked name to determine whether or not the use is in violation of an intellectual property owner’s rights. In the event that a legally protected trademark has been violated, a lawyer may file a petition to halt the trademark infringement.

Source: NBC Sports , “FCC dismisses petition attacking Washington name“, Mike Florio, December 19, 2014

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