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Federal judge cancels Redskins trademark

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A federal judge ordered the cancellation of the Washington Redskins’ federal trademark registration, ruling the team name was disparaging to Native Americans.

The Redskins lost in court Wednesday when U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee — in his 70-page ruling — ordered the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to schedule cancellation of six federal trademark registrations owned by the club.

The cancellation does not go into effect until the Redskins have exhausted the appeals process in the federal court system. The judge emphasized that the team remains free to use the name as it chooses and that the ruling means only that the team loses the specific legal protections of its federal registrations.

The Redskins will appeal the Wednesday’s decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

“I am surprised by the judge’s decision to prevent us from presenting our evidence in an open trial,” Redskins president Bruce Allen said in a statement. “We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case. We are convinced that we will win because the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.”

The ruling by Lee affirms an earlier finding by an administrative appeal board. Last year, the appeal board declared in a 2-to-1 vote that the team’s moniker is offensive to Native Americans and therefore ineligible under the Lanham Act for status in the federal trademark registry.

The Redskins had sued to overturn a ruling against them by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The team argued that cancellation of its trademark infringed on its free-speech rights because it required the government to judge whether the name is offensive.

“Today’s ruling by the District Court resoundingly affirmed the Trademark Office’s decision that the team’s trademark registrations should never have been issued,” attorney Jesse Witten, one of the lawyers for the parties fighting the team, said in a statement.


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