Enriching Life Through Innovative Ideas SM



The debate surrounding the Washington “Redskins” name and logo has been ongoing for over two decades. On July 8, 2015, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee upheld the earlier ruling of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) and ordered the cancellation of the Redskins trademark. Lee agreed that the name “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans and therefore cannot be protected by the trademark law.

History of the Debate

The legal battle first began in 1992, when a group of Native Americans led by Susan Harjo filed Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc. with the TTAB to remove the team’s registrations to the trademark. They claimed that the name was a racial slur against Native Americans, and the court ruled in favor of Harjo to remove the team’s registrations. However, the Washington Redskins successfully appealed in federal court on grounds that there was not enough evidence of the moniker being insulting.

Later in 2006, Amanda Blackhorse and four other Native Americans filed another petition with the TTAB to cancel the trademark. The TTAB once again ruled against the NFL franchise and ordered the cancellation of the team’s six federal trademark registrations because the name was indeed offensive to Native Americans.

Following their defeat in Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc., the Washington team sued Blackhorse and the five Native American activists in an attempt to overturn the decision. The team argued that since there were no objections when the copyright was granted between 1967-1990, the trademark should not be deemed offensive in the present time.

The Decision

Judge Lee disagreed with the team and stated that under the Lunham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052, the Redskins trademark is ineligible for legal protection because it could disparage or bring people into dispute. In 1898, the word “redskin” was deemed as contemptuous by the Webster dictionary. Judge Lee stated that as a dictionary-defined slur, the name “Redskins” should not have been chosen in the first place.

The decision to cancel the trademark means that the name “Redskins” will no longer have legal protection. The team is still allowed to use the name and fans are still able to buy apparel with the team’s logo, but no legal action can be taken against those who exploit the team’s name for profit.
This will not go into effect immediately because the Washington team still plans to appeal the decision, even if they must take this legal battle to the Supreme Court.

FindLaw Network

What Our Clients Say

Starting a new business can be a bit scary. Aside from worries of failure, there’s also the hassle of making sure all legal paperwork are properly filed. I reached out to Mr. Wang (Tommy) because of his excellent reviews and reputation and I am so glad I did. He was thorough and meticulous in answering all of my concerns and took time to find out special laws and policies regarding the kind of business I am starting. I could focus on the daily practical side of starting my new office without worry because I felt Tommy was reliable and took my case seriously. My business is opened and it’s all been a smooth start because of Tommy’s help. I have plans to start another business venture in the next few years and I already know I’ll be coming back to Wang IP Law.

The Shindig W.

I came to Tommy for help reviewing a licensing agreement I had secured with a well-known manufacturer. Tommy made sure I understood all the details in the contract and he negotiated with the company to improve my side of the deal. I mentioned to Tommy at my first consultation that we were looking to expand throughout the US and were investing a lot of money to make a big entrance into the market. I did not think I would have my store open so soon but Tommy also has connections with the local area and realtors to help me secure the location for my first store in the Los Angeles area. Tommy works a lot with the local businesses and he understands how to transition from the Asian market to US market. Within 8 months my store was open for business and fully operating. I must recommend Tommy to any business owners looking for help with contracts and improving their side of the deal. Tommy has the knowledge and experience to make sure there is a smooth process to open for business here, and make sure that your company is set up for success.


I think Tommy and his team by far considered the best people to work with in my 16 business years. Beside quick responses to all my inquiries, they also done things right and providing very professional solutions. I’m highly recommending Tommy and his firm to all business owners.

Calvin C.

I have been working on my Utility Patent for almost 4 years. I have hired and fired two very reputable IP firms because with all their expertise and reputation for being some of the top firms in IP Law, I felt a lack of connection and care in my product, time and financial investment. Then I found Tommy and his team. Tommy does not waste time. He and his team are professional and extremely thorough. After 4 years, I finally found a legal team that I felt spent the time to really understand the components of my utility patent. Tommy also very mindful of cost and how and where my money would be better spent. I really feel I am in great hands with Tommy and his team. They have been patient with my revisions. And most importantly, they made me feel that they fully understood the importance this patent is to me. It has been a great and comforting pleasure working with Tommy.


Read All