The Associated Press, 2 October
Can Keep Logo;
Judge: 'Redskins' might not be offensive
A federal judge overturned
a ruling revoking the Washington Redskins trademark, finding there
was insufficient evidence to conclude that the name is disparaging
to American Indians.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly
issued the ruling in connection with a 1999 decision by a panel
of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. But she also made clear
that her ruling does not address the issue of whether the name "Redskins"
actually is offensive to Indians.
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson
said the team hadn't reviewed the entire ruling but "from what
we've been told by our attorneys, we are pleased."
The lawsuit began in 1992 when seven
American Indians, led by Suzan Shown Harjo, asked the trademark
office to cancel six trademarks containing the word "Redskin."
In 1999, the Trademark Trial and
Appeal Board granted a petition to cancel the team's trademark registrations
because of a federal law, the Lanham Act, that prohibits registering
names if they are "disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or
disreputable." If the team lost, it could have been stripped
of the exclusive rights to market the Redskins name. Harjo said
she hoped this would lead owner Daniel Snyder to change the team
nickname, although he had pledged not to do so, regardless of the
outcome of the case.
In her 84-page decision, issued
late Tuesday, Kollar-Kotelly also found that the activists waited
too long to make their claims under the law, which was in effect
when the Redskins trademarks were registered in 1967. Kollar-Kotelly
criticized the trademark board for improperly relying on testimony
from several linguists, which she said was too inconclusive. She
also chastised the board for basing its decision in part on a 1996
survey of American Indians that concluded a majority found the term
"There is no evidence in the
record that addresses whether the use of the term "redskin(s)"
in the context of a football team and related entertainment services
would be viewed by a substantial composite of Native Americans,
in the relevant time frame, as disparaging," Kollar-Kotelly
Michael Lindsay, a lawyer for Harjo
and the other petitioners, said his clients would consider an appeal.
"After a decade-long struggle and a unanimous victory before
a three-judge panel before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board,
we are disappointed in the ruling, and the struggle continues."
The Washington Redskins were originally
located in Boston and called the Boston Braves until they were purchased
by George Preston Marshall in 1932. Marshall changed the name of
the team in 1933 to the Boston Redskins in honor of the team's head
coach, William "Lone Star" Dietz, who was an American
Indian. The team moved to Washington in 1937 and was renamed the
text of Judge Kollar-Kotelly's
decision (Adobe Acrobat pdf, an 87-page, 1.3Mb document).