Washington, D.C. — By cancelling protected trademarks of the Washington Redskins professional football team, members of the Project 21 black leadership network say, the Obama Administration’s Patent and Trademark Office is setting a dangerous precedent.
The Washington Redskins lost six trademark protections on the team’s name after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that the protections “must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans.”
“There are Native Americans and others who object to the Washington Redskins name, and they have every right to complain about it and organize people behind their cause to change that name. For the Obama Administration to come along and use the power of the government to economically hurt the team in an attempt to force a name change is a gross abuse of power,” said Project 21’s Stacy Swimp. “If the government can go after the Washington Redskins football team in this way, the government can likely go after any disfavored business, organization or social group that has similar protected trademarks, patents and copyrights if it chooses to do so. It sets a dangerous precedent that should strike fear into people everywhere and on both sides of this issue because it shows how government can take sides in political disputes and bring harm upon those it opposes.”
The ruling does not force the Washington Redskins to change its name. It does reduce the economic value of the team’s name because the lack of trademark protection means that other companies can use and produce items featuring the Redskins name and likenesses without having to adhere to any licensing agreements or pay any royalties to the team.
“Is there any sort of politicization of the federal government the Obama Administration will not sanction? First, President Obama appears to have sent the IRS and Lois Lerner after his enemies list, now he has the Patent and Trademark Office going after the Washington Redskins,” said Project 21’s Council Nedd II, a bishop with the Episcopal Missionary Church. “Maybe Obama has plans to start manufacturing bootleg Redskins gear after he leaves the Oval Office and he doesn’t want to pay royalties to Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Whatever the case, this shows how dangerous a virtually unchecked and all-powerful government can be.”
Redskins officials have already said they plan to appeal the ruling. They can appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or bring a civil suit at the federal district court level. A similar ruling against the team in 2009 was overturned at the appellate level.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who previously rallied fellow liberal senators against the Washington Redskins and called the team name “racist,” noted his approval of the executive-level action against the team. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Reid said “it’s just a matter of time until [Snyder] is forced to do the right thing and change the name.”
To Reid’s comments, Project 21’s Nedd replied: “If Harry Reid wants more to do, maybe he should focus on affairs in Nevada rather than mucking around with my hometown team. Maybe he can bird dog prosecutions of polygamy cases, land sale fraud or the federal government launching attacks on ranchers.”
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for nearly two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org/).