Skins Trademark Battle Goes to Supreme Court

Group claims Redskins is derogatory

By Jim Iovino
|  Tuesday, Sep 15, 2009  |  Updated 10:18 AM CDT
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The battle of the Washington Redskins' team name has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but don't worry, you probably won't have to tape over the Redskins' logo on your favorite jersey anytime soon.

Lawyers for a group of Native Americans filed a petition for certiorari in the case that has bounced around courtrooms for years, according to Legal Times. The Native American group claims that the name "Redskins" is a derogatory term for Indians. They want the Redskins trademark, which was issued in 1967, canceled.

The latest ruling on the case by the U.S. Court of Appeals said the claims weren't allowed because the group didn't file in a timely manner, not because any court agrees or disagrees that the trademark is offensive or racist. So now the group's lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to review that decision.

But (the group's lawyers) asserted that the doctrine does not apply, because the law explicitly allows cancellations of trademarks "at any time." He cites a 2001 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Marshak v. Treadwell, in which now-Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said trademark cancellation claims are not time-barred. "We hope that ruling will be of some help," said Mause.

What does the trademark battle mean for the Redskins? The Washington Post summed it up after the latest court ruling in May:

Attorneys for the National Football League franchise say the name is a sign of honor but are also fighting to protect millions of dollars' worth of sales of Redskins merchandise. If the team had lost in court, it could have continued to use the name on Redskins paraphernalia but would have faced a tougher time preventing merchants from infringing on its trademarks.

What does this all mean for Redskins fans? Not much at the moment. The group's lawyers said the Supreme Court probably won't take up the petition before the end of the year.

So, Chief Zee is free to scalp as many Cowboys as he wants -- for now.

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