By Theresa Vargas
An application to register the trademark “Redskins Hog Rinds” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was refused by an examining attorney on the basis that it contained “a derogatory slang term,” according to a letter from the agency.
“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,” reads the letter, dated Dec. 29.
It goes on to list five definitions for the word “Redskin,” four of which describe it as an “offensive” term for Native Americans. The fifth definition uses the word “taboo.” The letter also cites several news articles as evidence that Indians find the word offensive, along with the fact that “the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) now uses the designations ‘R*dskins’ and ‘R Word’ when referring to ‘REDSKINS’ sports teams mascots.”
It's not clear what effect, if any, the pork-rind decision will have on the football-team decision. The suit against the Washington Redskins isn't a simple racist-or-not decision on a word. But as an indicator of how the Patent and Trademark Office feels about the term "redskin," the ruling against Redskins Hog Rinds is a welcome one to efforts like Change the Mascot, a campaign against the name being spearheaded by Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter.
"The USPTO ruling sends a powerful message to Washington team owner Dan Snyder and the NFL that in the name of basic decency and respect they should immediately stop spending millions of dollars to promote the R-word," said Halbritter. "This is a huge potential precedent-setter rooted in the painfully self-evident truth that the Change the Mascot campaign has been reiterating: The R-word is a dictionary defined slur designed to demean and dehumanize an entire group of people. The federal government was right to declare that taxpayers cannot and should not subsidize the promotion of that slur through lucrative patent protections."
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The organization has already changed its website in anticipation of its 36th season in 2014 and a statement on its website says there will be new jerseys and helmets, and a new scoreboard for this upcoming season.
"It's about the entitlement of being able to label an oppressed people, to call somebody they have no ties to... that word,” Campeau said in the fall.