NPR logo Federal Court Rules Against Redskins In Legal Battle With Native Americans

America

Federal Court Rules Against Redskins In Legal Battle With Native Americans

A Washington Redskins football helmet lies on the field during NFL football minicamp. Nick Wass/AP hide caption

toggle caption Nick Wass/AP

A Washington Redskins football helmet lies on the field during NFL football minicamp.

Nick Wass/AP

A federal court has ruled against Washington, D.C.'s, professional football team in a legal battle with Native Americans over the team's name.

United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office should cancel the team's trademark of the Redskins name because the name "may disparage" Native Americans.

This order does not go into effect until the team has exhausted its appeals. The next step for the team would be a federal appeals court and then the United States Supreme Court.

But as Judge Lee points out, even if the judicial system ultimately sides with the group of Native Americans fighting this in court, the team could still continue to use its name. The decision would mean that the team would no longer be protected by federal trademark protections, which means the team would have a harder time stopping independent sellers from using its logo on jerseys, for example.

As The Washington Post reports, the team has argued that canceling its trademark "would taint its brand and remove legal benefits that would protect against copycat entrepreneurs."

In Lee's opinion for the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, he ruled against the team and agreed with a previous ruling from the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

Lee writes:

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.