The Decision Relating To Pro-Football’s Redskins Trademark Has Been Released, Reversing The Finding By The Trademark Trial And Appeal Board That The Redskins Mark Was Disparaging Of Native Americans

September 30, 2003 – Firm News

The decision of the District Court for the District of Columbia relating to Pro-Football's REDSKINS trademark has been released, reversing the finding by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("TTAB") that the REDSKINS mark was disparaging of Native Americans. Former Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Member and Oblon, Spivak partner David Kera offers his analysis below of the decision: The District Court reversed the decision of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board for two reasons. First, Judge Kollar-Kotelly found that there was not substantial evidence to support the TTAB's conclusion that the REDSKINS marks were disparaging of Native Americans at the times when the marks were registered (various times between 1967 and 1990), which were the relevant times. Secondly, the judge found that the Native American petitioners for cancellation of the registrations had waited an unreasonably long time after they knew of the registrations before they petitioned for cancellation. This excessive delay prejudiced Pro-Football, Inc. and also prevented the TTAB or the court from receiving evidence of how the marks were perceived by Native Americans when the marks were registered. This resulted in laches, which was a complete defense to the petition for cancellation. Since Pro-Football v. Harjo was decided on essentially procedural grounds, it does not add to our understanding of the provision of the Trademark Act which prevents the registration of marks which are disparaging or which may hold someone or some group up to contempt or disrepute. The decision does, however, furnish guidance on the proper analysis of evidence and on the uses and limitations of survey evidence. View PRO-FOOTBALL, INC. v. SUZAN SHOWN HARJO, et al. Civil Action No. 99-1385 (CKK) by clicking on the PDF icon above.

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