June 20, 2014

What's next for Redskins trademark?

7 questions everyone’s asking about the Redskins trademark

By Brian FungHow big a deal is this? What happens next? Can you start printing your own Redskins T-shirts now? Read on for everything you need to know about this long-running intellectual property battle.

Will the Redskins have to change their name?

No. Nothing in the USPTO's ruling forces the Redskins to abandon their name. By revoking the registration, the government has effectively downgraded the strength of Dan Snyder's intellectual property protections. But as we'll get into shortly, the team still enjoys substantial protections in other forms.

What happens next for the Redskins?

Chances are, they'll appeal, though of course the team always could choose not to. And this is where it gets really interesting. There are two ways an appeal could happen. One is for the Redskins to appeal to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The other option is to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Each comes with risks and rewards.
The Redskins just lost some legal protection of their name. Here's what it means

By Joseph StrombergToday's decision is an important victory for Blackhorse and the plaintiffs, but it doesn't guarantee that the team will actually lose the trademark registrations.

For one, the team will almost certainly appeal the decision in federal court. This younger group of plaintiffs is hopeful that their suit won't be subject to the same legal technicalities that doomed the previous one, but it's not certain they'll be successful. In the meantime, the team will keep full protection of its name.

But even if the team loses its appeal, they'll only lose the registrations — not the actual trademarks. A person (or organization) gets a trademark by using it in commerce, and registration is simply an extra step that confers extra protections. "The Lanham Act gives the senior user of a mark the right to prevent others from using a mark that is likely to cause confusion, regardless of whether the mark is registered," says Jeremy Sheff, an intellectual property law professor at St. John's.

This protection falls under the category of common law trademark rights, and it means that even if the Redskins' trademark registrations are cancelled, they'll still be able to go after other people using the marks on merchandise on the grounds that they're confusing customers. They may not, however, be able to collect monetary damages from infringers (as they currently can), and it would be difficult to enforce these rights in response to people making products overseas.
Dueling opinions on whether the trademark decision will stand:

Redskins Ruling Could Stick This Time, Say Trademark Experts

SHAPIRO: Experts say Redskins can win case in U.S. District Court

And more about the economic impact:

Trademark decision puts economic, political pressure on Redskins

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