March 21, 2014

"Redskins Potatoes" trademark rejected

Oneida Indian Nation Praises Rejection of Another 'Redskins' TrademarkAt least 12 trademarks with the word “Redskin” or “Redskins” have been denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office thus far, but there’s one that’s status is still pending: the Washington (NFL) Redskins.

On Monday, however, the twelfth one, “Washington Redskins Potatoes” was not given protection because it contained the derogatory and dictionary defined slur “Redskins.”

In its decision, the agency said, “Registration is refused because the applied-for mark includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols. Given that ‘REDSKIN’ 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.”

In January, ICTMN reported that the agency rejected an application for “Redskins Hog Rinds,” and listed five separate definitions to explain how offensive the word is.
Oneida Indian Nation Praises U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s Rejection of Washington Redskins Product Due to the Derogatory Nature of the R-WordFor the second time in just three months, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has rejected a trademark application because it contained the derogatory, dictionary-defined slur “Redskins.” Monday’s ruling denying trademark protection to “Washington Redskins Potatoes” is being lauded by the Oneida Indian Nation and its grassroots Change the Mascot campaign, which have called upon the Washington NFL team to end its use of the offensive R-word.

“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols,” the agency stated in its decision. “Given that ‘REDSKIN’ 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.”

In January, the agency rejected a similar trademark application for “Redskins Hog Rinds,” listing five separate dictionary definitions showing the offensive meaning of the R-word and citing growing opposition to the name including the Change the Mascot campaign.

“Once again, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is making clear what should be obvious to everyone with a conscience--that “Redskins” is not a term which anyone with common decency would use to address a Native American. Despite the team’s claim that the mascot is a term of honor, the reality is that it is a dictionary-defined slur that insults and denigrates Native Americans. The R-word has no place in modern society,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. “It is heartening to see this latest step in the right direction, and we hope that the Washington NFL team will heed the clear calls for change and place itself on the right side of history by changing the team’s disparaging name.”
What it portends

Dueling opinions on what this ruling means:

A Setback for Redskin Potatoes Won’t Hurt The Washington Redskins

By Maya RhodanEven if they prevail, McCallion said, revoking the team’s trademark registration wouldn’t have a huge impact on the team or the name. The team could still sell merchandise and use the name, although some of the legal protection afforded by a registered trademark would be lost.

“If they lost federal registration that would hurt their branding,” said Patricia Rehfield, a Maryland-based copyright attorney.

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said in a statement that “no matter what the ruling is this year, we expect no change that will impact the Redskins.”

“Even a negative ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s use of the Redskins name and logo,” he said. “That’s how the process works given our right to appeal.”
Loss of Trademark Would Be Final Straw for Washington Redskins' Name

By Brad GagnonAs Patrick Hruby from Sports On Earth establishes, the cost of changing the name is tantamount to peanuts. We're talking about one, maybe two Adam Archuletas (sorry for adding salt to the wound, 'Skins fans).

ESPN and ABC News sports business correspondent Darren Rovell told Keith Olbermann last year that changing names would be a wash in terms of profits/losses, while Olbermann himself believes Snyder would actually make money doing so.

Regardless, if trademark protection is lost and everyone else on the planet gains the right to manufacture and sell products that contain the team's name and logo without owing the league a dime, Snyder's hand will be forced.

And that'll be a good thing, because based on polls as well as the multitude of lawsuits launched in this regard from dozens of Native organizations, it's safe to conclude that thousands of Americans are personally offended by the name.
No end of criticism

Meanwhile, criticism of the Washington team keeps coming:

Time to Stop Playing Cowboys and Indians

By DaShanne StokesIt is ironic that the team would attempt to deflect attention from their own contribution to the oppression of indigenous peoples by posturing as an organization concerned with the issues confronting Indian country.

The real world is a very different place than the Red*kins would have us believe. A recent (2011) study by Chaney, Burke, and Burkley, for example, shows that many people, in fact, do not distinguish between their feelings between stereotypical Native mascots and actual, living, breathing, Native American people. Such mascots engender a racially hostile environment.

Like many Native Americans, my experience supports these studies. When I worked for the Boy Scouts of America, for example, other scouts, knowing that I was Native American, would sometimes put their hands to their mouths and chant “woo woo woo” upon seeing me at the summer camp where I taught. And every weekend, just before our Native American dance team would put on an exhibition as a treat for campers in an effort to promote cross-cultural awareness and understanding, campers would often greet us with tomahawk chops used at sports games--laughing and pointing at us while they chanted.

What the Red*kins seem not to realize is that ethnic mascots are integrally intertwined with their offensive team names and together they have the effect of perpetuating institutionalized racism. Institutionalized racism contributes to high rates of unemployment, poverty, health problems, and inadequate education for many Native Americans. In short, Native team names and mascots contribute to the very problems on which the Red*kins say we should be focused on solving.
Ethics, Morality And A Ticking Clock For How To Report On The R**skins

By Edward Schumacher-MatosThe word "redskins" is a racial slur. No doubt about it. But is it in the context of the team's 80-year-old name? Do most Americans think anything negative about Indians when they cheer, jeer or just say the name? What do most Native Americans hear in the name? Are the protesters just overzealous advocates long on "political correctness" and short on humor? Is there any proven harm being done to Natives? Or, relatedly, have we made mascots out a defeated people without asking them how they feel about it? On what side does the history of the name fall?

Those are just the factual questions. There is a moral one, ethics and morality not being the same thing. Is there a deeper moral issue of right and wrong at stake here, no matter what polls or studies show? If so, at what point does a news medium, especially a publicly supported one, have a responsibility to take a moral position? Or is its higher moral responsibility the professionally ethical one of being journalistically neutral?


Each of us will answer and weigh the questions in our own way, but my own conclusion based on the investigation that follows is that NPR should begin to purposefully disassociate itself from using the Redskins or the Washington Redskins on air and online.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see "Redskins Hog Rinds" Trademark Rejected.

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