U.S. Supreme Court OKs Trademarks with Racial Slurs, Could Undercut Efforts to Force Washington Reds*ins Name Change

A U.S. Supreme Court decision approves the use of a racial slur as a trademark, according to a National Public Radio story.

Members of the Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name, the Supreme Court says, in a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases.

That opens the door for other slurs to be trademarked, for instance the Washington Reds*ins. Indian Country Today ran a story: Supreme Court: Yes, You Can Trademark Disparaging Racial Slurs Like R-Word quotes an official with the Washington football team as being “thrilled” with the decision. Others plan continue to fight sports teams’ use of Indian mascots. Continue reading

Unpacking the Redsk*ns Trademark Challenge

The legal fight to stop the Washington Redsk*ns from using their offensive moniker has created an interesting paper trail — putting a price on the value of the racist name and illuminating how the powerful use their power to defend the status quo. It is a case that raises First Amendment issues and could ultimately put it before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is a quick case summary: In June, 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office ruled that the Redsk*ns name was offensive to and disparaged Native Americans, a violation of the Lanham Act. The Redsk*ns trademark remains in effect during the current appeal process. In July, 2015, a federal judge upheld the Patent Office’s decision to revoke the trademark. Pro Football appealed again, and now the case is before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here are a few takeaways from the various legal briefs:

The racist brand is worth millions and millions of dollars: The Pro Football brief estimated the Washington team’s value at $2.4 billion as of August 2014. Of that, the Redsk*ns brand contributes approximately $214 million. Continue reading