In a rare move on Wednesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled six trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins on the grounds that the National Football League (NFL) team’s name is offensive to Native Americans. The office’s independent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the term “Redskins” was disparaging to “a substantial composite” of Native Americans when the trademarks were granted between 1967 and 1990.
The Redskins can appeal the decision and the team would retain its trademark rights during the appeal process. If the team eventually loses the trademark, it can still use the Redskins name and logo, but other organizations could as well. Redskins team owner Dan Snyder—who has repeatedly defended the franchise’s name and logo—said last year that the team would never change its name, even if it lost its trademark protections.
Over the past year, pressure has been mounting on the franchise to change its name and logo. In February, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington State and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, and Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma and member of the Native American Caucus, sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking that the league change the name.
The National Congress of American Indians ran an anti-Redskins commercial called “Proud to Be” that aired during halftime of the ABC’s telecast of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals last week.