Victory against ‘Redskins’ name was engineered in MN

American Indians and their supporters gather outside the Metrodome to protest the Washington Redskins name, prior to a game between the team and the Minnesota Vikings in 2013. (AP Photo/Jim Mone) (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Changing a racist name can take a long time, but it might be about to pay off for opponents of the Washington Redskins name.

The U.S. Patent Office today canceled the trademark on the Redskins name. That only took about 20 years.

Opponents figured out long ago that if the profit from the sale of Redskins merchandise could be bled away from the Redskins, then monetary considerations — if not morality — could force them to change the name.

For that strategy, credit goes to Minneapolis lawyer Stephen Baird, who — while still in college — wrote a paper contending that the Redskins trademark is illegal because you can’t trademark something that disparages people.

Then he took a job with a Minneapolis law firm at the same time the World Series with the Braves and the Super Bowl with the Redskins were played in Minneapolis. So he sued and won, at least until an appeals court ruled he’d waited too long to file the case and the Supreme Court declined to hear it.

“There was really no precedent,” Baird told the New York Times last fall. “So I asked, Why hasn’t anyone challenged them on that basis?”

(h/t: Jason DeRusha)

  • Matt Kennedy

    Good on him.
    I had hoped that broadcasters for other NFL markets would refuse to use the name, and that eventually a kind of unofficial blackout would start to effect sales on Washington merchandise, but this works even better.

  • davehoug

    POOR reporting. If he waited too long to file, what changed to win now??? Isn’t this an “Ex Post Facto” changing of what was allowed into what is now dis-allowed. It was not disparaging when the patent was granted. How is it allowed to be taken away now??? We just need more info on what the law was actually saying rather than merely saying it took 20 years to win.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      This is a blog, not a story, Dave. That’s why blogs provide links to stories. People who aren’t interested in clicking links that form the entire story, shouldn’t be reading a blog in the first place.

      . From the link:

      To get around the court’s argument that too much time had passed, Ms. Harjo organized another case with younger American Indian plaintiffs. Oral arguments in that case were heard in March, and Ms. Harjo and others expect a decision perhaps by the end of the year. They are optimistic because, among other things, both sides agreed to recycle the records from the Harjo case as the foundation for this one.

      Even if Ms. Harjo and her compatriots prevail, Mr. Snyder will still be able to use Redskins as a name. But the federal government would no longer be obliged to protect the team’s trademarks, and would be less likely to seize counterfeit goods, a potentially expensive exemption that could hit the team and the league in the pocket.

      • Shawn

        You might want to put some running cold water on that… burn, Dave.