Thursday, June 19, 2014

One way or another

"We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps." — Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington DC NFL team, May 2013

AS YOU MIGHT imagine, I'm doing the happy dance today because yesterday the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled six trademarks belonging to the Redskins football team. The Office deemed the trademarks offensive to Native Americans.

Ya' think? If you look up the word redskin in the dictionary, here's how it's defined:

Unfortunately, it doesn't mean the team and its asshole owner (I've been making a real attempt to avoid the a-word in writing and speech by substituting "juice box" for it, but surely the introductory quote gives you some idea as to why I'm making an exception here), Daniel Snyder, can't use the name or logo, but it does mean that there is no longer any protection against anyone and everyone knocking off merchandise or anything else using them.

Maybe we're going to have to kill off this NFL football franchise's name and mascot with a thousand tiny cuts instead of one decisive blow —  kinda like how the police couldn't nail Al Capone for racketeering or murder, so the Feds got him on tax evasion. 

I've attached an article from that explains the ruling. Below that is an article from ThinkProgress that cites seven things that swayed the Patent Office to cancel the trademarks.

US Patent Office cancels Redskins trademark registration
By Ryan Wilson
June 18, 2014

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration because it considers the team's name “disparaging to Native Americans," reports the Washington Post.

The case, which was on behalf of five Native Americans, appeared before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

“This victory was a long time coming and reflects the hard work of many attorneys at our firm,” lead attorney Jesse Witten, of Drinker Biddle & Reath, told the Post.

Added Alfred Putnam Jr., the chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath: “We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case. The dedication and professionalism of our attorneys and the determination of our clients have resulted in a milestone victory that will serve as an historic precedent.”

The victory won't have any immediate impacts on the Redskins organization, or owner Daniel Snyder's decision to keep the team's name. The Redskins will appeal the ruling, but should the ruling be upheld, it would mean that the Redskins would lose its federally trademarked protections.

As explained by last month, "The effect would be large because federally registered trademarks keep others from selling items with the team's logos, although even then the team could try to keep unauthorized merchandisers from using the marks through common law and state statues."

Adds Trademark law experts Christine Haight Farley: "I think it is entirely possible for a court in that circumstance to say, 'You've come to a court of equity with unclean hands and we are going to deny you your remedy.' We don't really know what would happen."

Snyder proclaimed in May 2013, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps."

But should the team lose the appeal and the trademark protection that comes with it, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might feel differently.

When asked Wednesday morning about the ruling, Snyder declined to comment.

Back in January, the Patent and Trademark Office rejected a request from a company that wanted to sell pork rinds called "Redskins Hog Rinds" because it considered the term "derogatory slang."

In a letter dated Dec. 29, the agency wrote: “Registration is refused because the applied-for mark REDSKINS HOG RINDS consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”

Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter applauded the ruling earlier this year.

“The USPTO ruling sends a powerful message to Washington team owner Dan Snyder and the NFL that in the name of basic decency and respect they should immediately stop spending millions of dollars to promote the R-word,” Halbritter said at the time.

“This is a huge potential precedent-setter rooted in the painfully self-evident truth that the Change the Mascot campaign has been reiterating: The R-word is a dictionary defined slur designed to demean and dehumanize an entire group of people. The federal government was right to declare that taxpayers cannot and should not subsidize the promotion of that slur through lucrative patent protections.”

7 Things That Convinced The U.S. Patent Office To Cancel The Redskins Trademark
JUNE 18, 2014

The landmark decision by the U.S. Patent Office, first reported by ThinkProgress, canceled the trademark “Redskins” for Washington’s NFL franchise. Ultimately, the decision hinged on whether the term Redskins “disparages Native American persons.” The law prohibits trademarks on disparaging terms. So the Native Americans challenging the trademark needed to convince the office: 1. The term was still referring to Native Americans, and 2. It was disparaging toward Native Americans. Here are seven things that persuaded the Patent Office:

1. This picture of cheerleaders

From the decision: “The Redskinettes also had appeared wearing costumes suggestive of Native Americans, as shown in the 1962 photograph of them reproduced below, which contained the title ‘Dancing Indians’ and the caption ‘Here are the Redskinettes all decked out in their Indian garb and carrying Burgundy and Gold pom-poms.’”

2. This picture of the marching band

From the decision: “The Washington Redskins marching band had worn Native American headdresses as part of its uniforms between the 1960s and the 1990s, as shown in the image below from the 1980s.”

3. This press guide

From the decision: “Between 1967 and 1979, the annual Washington Redskin press guides, shown below, displayed American Indian imagery on the cover page.”

4. Its similarity to other racial slurs

The decision cited an excerpt from the 1990 book “Unkind Words: Ethnic Labeling from Redskin to WASP”:

Nearly half of all interracial slurs …refer to real or imagined physical differences. … Most references to physical differences are to skin color, which affirms what we have always known about the significance of color in human relations. Asian groups were called yellow this and that and Native Americans were called redskins, red men, and red devils.

5. The dictionary definition of Redskins

We further note the earliest restrictive usage label in dictionary definitions in Mr. Barnhart’s report dates back to 1966 from the Random House Unabridged First Edition indicating REDSKIN is “Often Offensive.” From 1986 on, all of the entries presented by Mr. Barnhart include restrictive usage labels ranging from “not the preferred term” to “often disparaging and offensive.”

6. The opposition by the National Congress of American Indians

The decision cites a 1992 resolution from the organization:

[T]he term REDSKINS is not and has never been one of honor or respect, but instead, it has always been and continues to be a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for Native American’s

7. Letters of protest from Native Americans

The Patent Office also considered letters protesting the name from individual Native Americans. One sample:

Since you continue not to believe that the term “Redskins” is not [sic] offensive to anyone, let me make this clear: The name “Redskins” is very offensive to me and shows little human interest or taste…If you think you are preserving our culture or your history, then may I suggest a change? To live up to your name, your team would field only two men to the opponents eleven. Your player’s wives would be required to face the men of the opposing team. After having lost every game in good faith, you would be required to remain in RFK stadium’s end zone for the rest of your life living off what the other teams had left you. (Which wouldn’t be much.) Since you would probably find this as distasteful as 300,000 Indians do, I would suggest a change in name. In sticking to your ethnic theme, I would suggest the Washington Niggers as a start. … This would start a fantastic trend in the league. We would soon be blessed with the San Fransisco [sic] Chinks, New York Jews, Dallas Wetbacks, Houston Greasers, and the Green Bay Crackers. Great, huh? Mr. Williams, these would be very offensive to many people, just as Redskins is offensive to myself and others. You can take a stand that would show you and the team as true believers in civil rights, or you can continue to carry a name that keeps alive a threatening stereotype to Indian people. People, Mr. Williams. We don’t want the Redskins!

(Me again.) Any questions? And as a reminder:

Change the Mascot is a national campaign to end the use of the racial slur "redskins" as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C. Launched by the Oneida Indian Nation, the campaign calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end the use of the racial epithet. 
  • Write to Roger Goodell at NFL Commissioner, 345 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10154
  • Call the NFL league office at 212-450-2000.
  • Send a message to Commissioner Goodell on Twitter @nflcommish with the hashtag, #ChangeTheMascot

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