Justice Department Intervenes against Redskins in Trademark Case

Redskins Field AP

The Justice Department has intervened in the case brought by the Washington Redskins against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“The United States is entitled to intervene in this case as of right pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and statute,” the Justice Department’s brief (PDF) holds. “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.1(c) permits the Attorney General to intervene in an action as of right when, as here, the constitutionality of a federal statute has been challenged.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled six of the team’s many trademarks last year in response to a case brought by five Native Americans. The franchise’s trademarks remain protected through the conclusion of the legal process.

The Redskins challenge as contrary to the First Amendment the law enabling the Patent and Trademark Office to cancel trademarks they deem offensive. The Justice Department involves itself in the case to defend the law, but not necessarily the Patent and Trademark Office’s application of that law, used to cancel six trademarks held by the team. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia hears the case.

Several prominent present and past members of the Obama Administration, including current Attorney General Eric Holder and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have denounced the team’s nickname and voiced support for a change.

President Obama said in 2013 that if he owned the Redskins he would “think about changing the name.” The president opined, “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”

The man who actually owns the team, Dan Snyder, has thought about changing the name, telling USA Today that he won’t do it. “We’ll never change the name,” Snyder told the paper. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”