Wednesday, June 18, 2014

REDSKINS - Trademark Cancellations

Sure, this is a blog about Florida IP issues.  But everyone is talking about this decision.  You can read the decision here and you can read about it in a number of places (Sports Illustrated, Washington Post, New York Times, Tampa Bay Times, etc.)  If you've read enough of those articles, you know by now that the decision impacts Pro-Football, Inc.'s right to have registrations for the challenged REDSKINS marks, not whether or not the team from Washington can use the name.  And you've probably already read that the team from Washington intends to continue using the name and will challenge the trademark decision.

So why post this decision here?  What makes this an interesting IP development in central Florida?  You'll have your answer if you turn to page 17 of the decision.  You know from reading the decision that the challengers needed to show 2 things to cancel the registrations under 15 USC 1052(a) for disparaging persons or bringing them into contempt or disrepute: First, the Board must determine what is the meaning of the trademark at issue as it is used in commerce -- i.e. what is the meaning of REDSKINS as used by Pro Football.  And second, is the meaning of the marks one that offends Native Americans.  (As to this second inquiry, it's interesting to note that the test is not whether a majority of Native Americans would be offended, but rather would a "substantial composite" of Native Americans be offended (at the time of registration)).

So what's on page 17?  To show the first element (the meaning of the mark as its used), the Board showed the team from Washington's usage of the mark (and how it maintained a Native American meaning). And to do so, the Board relied on  Doug Williams - former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback.  Thus, Tampa plays a key part in this decision, and justifies writing about it here.

Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc., Cancellation No. 92046185 (TTAB June 18, 2014)

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