8091 – A Trademark with Reservations


You can go on the warpath about a lot of things, but taking away the name of the Washington Redskins isn’t one of them.  This case got started when a group of Native Americans asked the Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark of the Washington Redskins on the grounds that the team name was disparaging towards members of their ethnic group.  After the PTO agreed, the team appealed to the Court, which reversed holding the Native Americans waited too long to challenge the Redskins name on which the league and the team had spent millions in promotion.  The Court accepted the defense of laches, which basically means if you wait too long to assert your rights you lose them.  The Court said, “equity aids the vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights.”  The plaintiffs also challenged the Redskins cheerleaders, the Redskinettes.  But the Court said since Redskinettes is derived from Redskins, laches latches on for them as well.  Another lawsuit is in the works, but for the moment the Redskins and the Redskinettes will keep on putting skin in the game.


Pro-Football, Inc. v. Suzanne S. Hario, et al., U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, No. 03-7162, May 15, 2009, Tatel, J.