Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 11, 2006
FOOTBALL/LAW: The Washington Pigskins?

A group of Native Americans are petitioning the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the Washington Redskins' trademark. This is apparently a second effort to do this; the first is still being litigated:

Federal trademark law dictates that the government will not register any trademark that disparages any person or group, and in 1999, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the Redskins trademark was disparaging. The NFL appealed the decision to the U.S. District Court, which in 2003 reversed the PTO, ruling that the name wasn't disparaging. Further, said the trial court, laches (essentially, a statute of limitations) barred the Native Americans' claim because the Redskins had registered their trademark way back in 1967. The Native Americans then appealed to the D.C. Circuit, which issued an opinion last year declining to rule on disparagement but asking the trial court to reconsider the laches issue.

Actually, laches is a specific type of limitations - rather than a period of years, a laches defense is based on unreasonable delay in bringing a claim. The new plaintiffs apparently hope to avoid the laches defense because they are young, but I don't see how that helps them, since the disparagement is of a group of people and the Redskins have reasonably relied on the mark for four decades.

That said, I do think that "Redskins," far more than other Native American team names, is in fact derogatory, and even if legal action is inappropriate, it would behoove the team to change its name. I've long argued that they should change the team name to "Pigskins" - it's got an obvious football connection, it connects with the team's "Hogs" tradition, they would still be the "Skins," and even the theme song could become "Hail to the Pigskins" without much trouble.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:38 PM | Football • | Law 2006-08 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Wow! A successful laches defense.

I always thought of it as one of the "kitchen sink" affirmative defenses I throw into an answer without actually thinking about it too much.

This is one case where I'd never have expected it to work, ironically.

* * *

The Pigskins name is great. I'm behind you.

Not to mention, the team does play in a town with plenty o' pork, and all.

Posted by: Mike at August 11, 2006 5:51 PM

Why not rename the team the Red Storm?

Posted by: abe at August 12, 2006 12:40 PM

Abe, I think you may have the start of a good idea. When a republican is in the white house, they can be the red states, when a democrat (since Bill can't run again, it probably won't happen for quite a while), the Washington Blue States.

Pigskins is a great idea Crank. I didn't give it much thought, but it really is a distasteful name. And it shouldn't take a suit to change it. Bowing to political correctness isn't wrong when not bowing is bad taste.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at August 12, 2006 6:13 PM

I think the Redskins were named, not for indians, but for the band that dumped tea in Boston harber and were discribed as "redskins.''


Posted by: joe cholik at August 13, 2006 9:59 AM

when the colonists dumped the tea, they were dressed as Mohawks Indians. Look it up.

Posted by: hugo at August 14, 2006 2:08 PM
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