The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected a trademark application for a product associated with the Washington Redskins because the agency regards the team nickname as offensive.
“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark REDSKINS HOG RINDS consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols,” the USPTO explained in declining a trademark application for a food product marketed under the team name. “Given that ‘REDSKINS’ in the mark is a derogatory slang term that refers to, and is considered offensive by, American Indians, registration of the applied-for mark must be refused under Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act.”
Should the trademark refusal extend beyond pork rinds to t-shirts, caps, and other items, the Redskins could stand to lose millions of dollars through the government awarding its imprimatur to the counterfeit trade in such items by refusing protections associated with trademarks.
The government agency ironically justified their claim that Native Americans find “Redskins” offensive by linking to an item featured on Martin Bashir’s MSNBC web page. The sensationalistic host resigned from MSNBC in December after fantasizing on air the previous month about someone defecating and urinating in former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s mouth.
“As additional evidence that American Indians find the term “REDSKINS” offensive,” the letter explains, “see the attached article, ‘Oneida Indian Nation pressures NFL’s Redskins to change name’ (MSNBC, September 9, 2013) located at http://www.msnbc.com/martin-
But the television host cited by the U.S. government as the arbiter of what is and isn’t offensive holds a position at odds with not only a majority of Americans, but a majority of American Indians, too. A Public Policy Polling survey from December found that just 18 percent of Americans believe the team should change its name, with 71% believing that the team should remain the “Redskins.” A ten-year-old poll of Native Americans by the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey reported that ninety percent of respondents weren’t bothered by the nickname and just nine percent found it “offensive.”
Patowomeck tribe chief Robert Green explained to the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this year that the name doesn’t bother him. He told the paper in May, “About 98 percent of my tribe is Redskins fans, and it doesn’t offend them, either.”