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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Redskins Trademark Cancelled For Disparagement

Could private property rights and even basic civil liberties be under even more extreme attack? Has the eminent domain-type sense of government seizure of real property been extended into the intellectual property domain?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has now cancelled the trademark registrations of the Washington Redskins because "Redskins" and an Indian headdress in the logo are considered disparaging to Native Americans. The full decision includes a discussion on the merits of the racism argument, and is worth reading. 

Are the next targets the Cleveland Indians or Chicago Blackhawks? (The Blackhawks' logo also features the head of an apparent Native American, and includes four feathers.) 

The federal government apparently is using its full weight to pressure a private business to change its name, in the process destroying millions of dollars in brand equity.  There is no compensation to the Redskins' owner (Daniel Snyder) for the loss in value to his franchise, which is valued (perhaps wildly optimistically) at $1.7 billion by Forbes magazine including a separate value of the brand -- that is, the name "Redskins" -- of $145 million. Perhaps overzealous government confiscation (or transformation) of property -- there is really no other way to view this -- is now a very real "risk factor" for any business.

Can your property be taken away because someone, with or without cause (and that's operating on the honor system, to be honest), targets you with a claim of "disparagement"?  If so, then the mugger's most effective weapon of choice becomes an Alinskyite imputation of the vilest of personal characteristics to his mark, with the apparent sanction and blessing of the federal government. This development may usher in a new age of legal plunder.

The real objection that deserves to be made is against the concept that select groups, claiming to speak for victimized classes, have a de facto right of approval or disapproval on the operations of a business. Are we entering an era where concentrated public opinion against certain businesses can be used to extort financial settlements or changes in business operations, including ones where the enterprise is made to suffer a financial penalty such as with the Redskins' potential signficant loss in brand value? Are self-proving cries of racism or other offense an acceptable motive to engage in the equivalent of the now-rightfully-banned practice that used to be called "redlining"?  And at what point do these rulings and private efforts start to echo the same egregious civil rights violations that were finally found unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1950s and 1960s?


  1. Nice blog, thanks for sharing the information. I will come to look for update. Keep up the good work.
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  2. Before filling your trademark application you need to search your trademark from USPTO database to determine whether anyone is already take this mark. That's why you should conduct a trademark search company.