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Chief Wahoo, you’re on notice: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancels the Redskins trademarks

Jun 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT


This is interesting. And it could have some repercussions for our old friend Chief Wahoo.

The ruling came this morning in a case brought by five Native Americans, who sought cancellation of the team’s registrations by arguing that the trademarks violated the federal law, as stated at 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), prohibiting the “registration of marks that may disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute,” as the agency wrote in its ruling.

This likely won’t go into effect immediately, as the Redskins can seek a stay of the order pending appeal. But if it holds up, it would allow anyone who wanted to to sell a Redskins shirt or merchandise with Redskins’ current trademarks. That hits the bottom line and that, more than any of the political pressure in the world, could inspire the Redskins to change their name, so as to continue to reap the profits of their trademarks.

Could this be applied to Chief Wahoo? I’m not a trademarks guy, so I’m not sure. It’s possible that Wahoo was trademarked at a time when it wasn’t considered disparaging. That seems crazy in that a racist sambo-esque character has been considered offensive in the country at large for at least as long as Wahoo has existed and maybe even longer. But like I said, I’m not sure about this area of the law and whether the Indians have some sort of safe harbor that the Redskins do not. Here is a law review article on the subject from 1998. It seems to think that the same rules would apply to both Wahoo and “Redskins.”

If they don’t, though, it could eventually spell the end of Wahoo merchandise and Wahoo logos on Indians uniforms. Because if they can’t make a buck off of it, why bother?

218 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. rathipon - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    I’m not even close to being a trademarks guy, but off the bat I sense a 1st amendment issue. Government is deciding which kind of speech it wishes to impart a form of economic protection upon and which speech it doesn’t. Maybe this has been dealt with already by the courts but my gut feeling is that it’s problematic.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      Here’s what the first amendment says. Tell me where it says you have the economic right to free speech?

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[1]

      • lanflfan - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:43 PM

        It cracks me up how many people scream “First Amendment violation” yet do not understand what rights the First Amendment to our Constitution actually provides us.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:48 PM

      They jailed Dan Snyder? Wow.

      No, wait. He can say whatever he wants to. He just lost his trademark.

      Thank goodness.

  2. jamesmfitzpatrick - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    I’m glad there is a lot more intelligent discussion going on here than on the ESPN comments or the PFT article. Too many right wing trolls.

  3. eagles512 - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    What a complete waste of time.

  4. drewsylvania - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    Sooo if I am offended by the frequent portrayal of white men in sitcoms as bumbling idiots, who do I talk to?

    • dluxxx - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      TV Producers. Tell them that there aren’t enough minority actors, blended families and lead male characters in TV and that you demand they rectify the situation. Clearly if there were more shows centered around black families, you’d see more black men portrayed as bumbling idiots as well…

      Oh, wait, you weren’t serious? Hmm, can’t help you then.

      • drewsylvania - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        I was half-serious. We can’t simply cheerlead for some ethnic groups over others. That path leads to more racism.

      • dluxxx - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        If you look at a list of black sitcoms, you’ll find that the bumbling idiot dad is a pretty common theme. As I pointed out, there is a dearth of sitcoms centered around black families in relation to the amount of sitcoms based on white families. One could argue THAT is racism at play. The kind of systemic racism that permeates our society as a whole.

      • dluxxx - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        If you’re saying one race shouldn’t be held up above others, however, then yes I completely agree. I’d like to see more Hispanic family sitcoms, Asian family sitcoms, etc. Why should whitey get all the shows, amiright?

      • drewsylvania - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:37 PM

        Can’t agree more. We babble about race all the time, while we so often ignore our long-held institutional biases.

    • bisonaudit - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      The white male bumbling idiots who program sitcoms.

    • DJ MC - Jun 18, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      Just like all TV: Vote with your Remote. If people didn’t watch those shows, they wouldn’t get made.

  5. nobody78 - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Well, that did it. Now I’m on Snyder’s side. This sucks.

    • clydeserra - Jun 18, 2014 at 2:20 PM

      why? Why does it suck?

      The ruling, if upheld, means that the US government will not enforce a trademark that is offensive. So what?

      Synder can still call his team whatever he wants, and sell whatever he wants, but the courts will not force someone else from obtaining a license from Snyder to make racist t shirts, bumper stickers or what have you.

      What is wrong with that?

      • drewsylvania - Jun 18, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        He’s saying that Snyder sucks technogoat pixelfeces.

      • bleedgreen - Jun 18, 2014 at 3:48 PM

        It means that this is government interfering in things that they shouldn’t. The Redskins owned that trademark for how many years? And now all of a sudden its null and void because someone or a group of someones don’t agree with the subject of it? What happened to due process? What happens when someone says that Ronald McDonald is offensive because he stereotypes clowns? Or that Jeep Cherokee is offensive because it implies that all Cherokee people enjoy offroading? You can ask Snyder to change it and if he says no, he says no. Vote with your dollars and don’t support him. If enough people care, he’ll change it because its in his own best interest.

      • clydeserra - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        What what?

        What happened to due process?

        this…this IS due process. what is the matter with you?
        when the founders talked about due process of law, they were talking about exactly what is happening now with this trademark decision.

        Now as for the other things that may become offensive in the future, I don’t know, but if they fall within the same definition as the Washington’s team name, they will lose the trademark.

        Again, Snyder is free to say no. he has been saying no. he can still say no. he can say whatever he pleases, but, if this ruling stands, he will not be able to use the big bad government that is out of control (i am guessing those are your words) to prevent others from using the racist name that he uses.

        Pretty simple really. the Government is giving you, bleed green, the right to print racist t shirts without Dan Snyder telling you to stop.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:03 PM

        he he The government is interfering with things it shouldn’t like reviewing patents and trademarks, which is what the law says the government has to do. Hilarious.

        More depressingly: Native Americans = clowns 😦 Urp.

      • skids003 - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:43 AM

        If you aren’t a liberal, the government is going after you. The party of “tolerance” is the most intolerant, aren’t they? If youdon’t ‘think” like a liberal, they’ll try to destroy you. They can’t live and let live.

      • clydeserra - Jun 19, 2014 at 5:58 PM

        lay off the tin foil hat.

        that is the dumbest thing I have ever read. I think I am dumber for having read it.

      • skids003 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:52 AM

        clyde, you were already dumb before you read it.

      • clydeserra - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:08 PM

        but I know how to use the reply button.

        What does that make you?

  6. rcali - Jun 18, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Ahh, the corners we have backed ourselves into in this country. Only the lawyers and their firms win in this PC fight folks.

    • sophiethegreatdane - Jun 18, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      “Only the lawyers and their firms win in this PC fight folks.”

      Don’t forget the people who, you know, find the name disparaging. They win too. Because they no longer have to watch someone else make money while using a racial slur that demeans them as a mascot name.

      Or did you simply forget about them because they’re numbers are small, and hell, we’ve been doing this forever, how could anyone be offended by that?.

      • jimeejohnson - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:07 PM

        Your excellent comment stands in stark contrast to those made by the narrow minded pea brains otherwise known as Conservatives.

      • skids003 - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:45 AM

        Actually, if you don’t agree with a liberal, they want you to disappear. The party of the most ‘tolerant” are actually the most intolerant. You get idiots like jimmeejohnson that don’t allow for differing opinions in their dogma.

  7. mrbiz8505 - Jun 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Does the name “Cowboys” offend Native Indians?

    • sophiethegreatdane - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      I don’t know.

      But I find it offensive when the Cowboys are referred to as “America’s Team”.


      • SocraticGadfly - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        For me, it’s just nauseating, not offensive. Well, it’s also semi-libelous to fans of teams that have winning records.

    • DJ MC - Jun 18, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      Why would it? I mean, defenders of the Washington football team name love to use myth and legend as their primary foundation for the defense, so I guess it does make sense that the myth of “Cowboys and Indians” would be enticing, too. But like all of the other ones, that myth doesn’t actually hold up to reality.

      A lot of people were killing Native Americans for hundreds of years for hundreds of generally invalid reasons. Very few were actually murdered by men employed by ranchers to guide cattle to railheads.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 19, 2014 at 10:26 AM

        Actually….cowboys did fight a lot with Indians and raped Indian women frequently. I don’t think that the Native Americans separated cowboys as a specific group from other whites who were hostile with them, but they would’ve definitely seen them as roving bands of thugs — which, frankly, a lot of white settlers thought too.

    • campcouch - Jun 19, 2014 at 6:44 AM

      pretty sure Cowboys and Indians was a movie thing. The Army did more damage than any cowboy ever did.

  8. mlbfan8898 - Jun 18, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    Go ahead and change the names. Most people will continue to call those teams by their original names, no matter what. A bunch of WHITE liberals shouldn’t be the moral authority in this country when it comes to race.

    • jimeejohnson - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:04 PM

      I know you’re lying and most likely a God damn right wing bass turd, or the American Taliban.

      • jwbiii - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:18 PM

        Don’t defame bass, they’re good to eat.

      • skids003 - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:48 AM

        mlbfan, Ah, but they are. They know what’s best for all of us. You get called names by a left wing a**h**e if you don’t fall into line. No tolerance by the party of tolerance.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:52 PM

      A bunch of WHITE liberals shouldn’t be the moral authority in this country when it comes to race.

      This was brought up by a group of Native Americans moron. Reading isn’t your strong suit, is it?

      • skids003 - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:49 AM

        Yeah, idiot, but I bet the Patent Office is run by brain dead libs.

    • DJ MC - Jun 18, 2014 at 6:44 PM

      You’re right. Nobody would ever accept a new name.

      On a related note, anybody planning on watching that Quakers-Beaneaters game tonight?

      • clydeserra - Jun 18, 2014 at 7:54 PM

        I am hoping the Naps beat the Los Angels Angels.

        Wait, that second one isn’t so funny anymore.

  9. tmc602014 - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    1. This is not government imposition – it is American citizens using existing law to seek relief.
    2. There are words you would not teach your kids to use. Why would you want an a##&()e billionaire to teach them?

  10. mikhelb - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    it would be cool to see if those same 5 people apply for the “redskins” patent arguing they can use the words because it empowers them, but nobody else can… or something like that.

    and oh yeah, everybody should read an article published in the newest Nature journal about ancestry based on DNA studies of indigenous people of México and USA. Verrrry interesting to say the least.

  11. mlbfan8898 - Jun 18, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    There are more important issues in this country right now than a complaint about a stupid team name. That’s all it is; a team name.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 18, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      Gonna keep on beating the drum for dumb comments, aren’t you?

      • skids003 - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:49 AM

        Don’t worry, you have him beat.

  12. yankeessuckameanone - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:49 PM

    I love how fka COPO calls people names who he doesn’t agree with. He can’t handle an argument that he doesn’t agree with so he insinuates people are dumb for thinking the way they do. That’s not very tolerant of you.

  13. yankeessuckameanone - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:50 PM

    fka COPO has no friends

    • historiophiliac - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      Oh, no. Church has lots of friends around here. I’m one.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jun 18, 2014 at 11:41 PM

        I like what he has to say, too. I also “like” that possibly the same person, or maybe a couple, are likely creating multiple fake/temporary accounts to boo-hoo about him.

  14. seanwasamarine - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    COPO can’t handle an opinion without belittling someone. I would belittle you for your comments but I’m a better person.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:36 PM

      In other words, you got nothing. Thanks for the clicks. Come back when you actually have something to say. Ciao.

  15. mlbfan8898 - Jun 18, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Hey go easy on fka COPO. Even bullies have feelings.

  16. campcouch - Jun 19, 2014 at 6:48 AM

    I thought they revoked the TM on the “Redskins” name logo designs and not the actual Native head.

  17. platediscipline - Jun 19, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Redskins. Derogatory name????

    The Red Mesa High School Redskins. It is on a reservation.

  18. mlbfan8898 - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    I couldn’t have said it better skids003

  19. mlbfan8898 - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    If only people actually looked at the poles of Native Americans who are actually against the name Redskins. They’d be shocked to see how many of them aren’t. What is it in the 90% range or something. But of course they don’t care what pole numbers mean. They only care about one thing, getting their way all the time.

  20. mlbfan8898 - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Correction “poll” on those. Autocorrect

  21. ohiosteelerfan1980 - Jun 21, 2014 at 4:44 AM

    As a long time Indians fan they will always be the “TRIBE”! As for freedom of speech it doesn’t exist anymore, even though it’s still our first ammendment. Go Tribe!

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