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Federal Court Cancels Redskins’ Trademark Registration Finding the Mark “May Disparage” Indians, Under the Lanham Act

On July 8, 2015, in Pro-Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse et al. (Case No. 1:14-cv-01043), after two decades of litigation, the U.S. District Court in Virginia cancelled the trademark registrations of six Redskins football team trademarks.

Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a) provides that registration of a trademark should be denied to any mark that “[c]onsists of or compromises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter; or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt of disrepute … ”

In Pro-Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse et al. (Case No. 1:14-cv-01043), culminating more than two decades of ongoing litigation, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia affirmed a narrow 2014 ruling (2-1) by the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), cancelling the registration of the six “Redskins” marks owned by Plaintiff Pro-Football, Inc [the Washington Redskins football team] on the grounds that the marks consisted of matter that “may disparage” Native Americans and bring them into contempt or disrepute, in violation of Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act. READ MORE

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