Trouble may be on the horizon for the Washington Redskins trademark. In correspondence dated December 29, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejected a request to register “Redskins Hog Rinds” as a trademark for a pork rind product.  The USPTO stated, “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.”  While the “Redskins Hog Rinds” product is not affiliated with the football team, the implications of the USPTO’s letter will certainly affect the team’s intellectual property protection, including its iconic REDSKIN trademark.

The USPTO initially held a hearing on the team’s nickname in March 2013, in the wake of a lawsuit led by Amanda Blackhorse, a Native American issues advocate, and members of the Oneida Indian Nation, all of whom criticize the use of the REDSKIN trademark. A representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, referring to the Redskins nickname as the “R-word”, stated that the term is a “dictionary defined slur designed to demean and dehumanize an entire group of people.”

Daniel Snyder, owner of the team, has refused to change the REDSKIN trademark despite a growing movement through media outlets and advocacy groups, defending it in a recent letter to fans as a “symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.” The Oneida Indian Nation criticized Snyder’s letter as “an attempt to re-write history.”

What the USPTO ultimately decides regarding the Redskins mark remains to be seen and we will post an update once that the decision is released.

David M. Lilenfeld