AP Photo/Nick Wass
A Washington Redskins football helmet lies on the field during NFL football minicamp, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Ashburn, Va. The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday, June 18, 2014, that the Washington Redskins nickname is "disparaging of Native Americans" and that the team's federal trademarks for the name must be canceled. The ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) The Associated Press
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has decided to cancel the trademark registration for the use of the name "Washington Redskins" on the grounds it is disparaging to native Americans.
The NFL team has come under fire in recent years for its use of a nickname that many people say is racist and insensitive.
"We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," the patent office said in a ruling Wednesday.
Despite its base in one of the smaller cities in the league, Washington's team is among the most popular in the NFL, and has been deemed the second-most valuable in the league in rankings by Forbes.
There has been a growing movement for the team to change its name, something the franchise and the NFL have resisted.
The patent office's decision does not preclude the NFL team from using the name. Rather, it simply means the organization no longer has the statutory right to register the trademark — which means the name can be used by anyone, including those who wish to mock the team or draw attention to what could be deemed as a racist name.
The decision also:
- Limits the money the team and the league can earn from selling jerseys and other merchandise emblazoned with the name and logo.
- Strips the team of the rights to the term "Redskinettes," the nickname for its cheerleaders.
- Strips the team of sole use of the iconic image in the logo.
The ruling comes eight years after a group of native Americans,including Amanda Blackhorse, filed a suit against the team's use of the name.
"I am extremely happy that the [patent office] ruled in our favour,” Blackhorse said in a statement to progressive news website ThinkProgress.org.
“It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans. We filed our petition eight years ago and it has been a tough battle ever since.
"I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed. The team’s name is racist and derogatory. I’ve said it before and I will say it again — if people wouldn’t dare call a Native American a ‘redskin’ because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?"
It's the second time the team has faced a challenge to its name along patent grounds, the last time dating back to 1992, when Suzan Harjo and six other native Americans filed suit.
The team lost that time, too, before the ruling was overturned on appeal. Just like last time, the Redskins could retain their trademark protection if they appeal and win.
The team had no immediate comment following the ruling, but Harjo said she was "thrilled and delighted" with the decision.
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