Update To Important Trademark Case In Supreme Court

A federal appeals court has upheld an action of the United States Trademark Office canceling the football team’s trademark registration because federal law prohibits the registration of “disparaging” words as trademarks. The Trademark Office found that “Redskins" is disparaging to Native Americans.

In a conflicting case, the federal appeals court held that freedom of speech permits registration of even disparaging terms. The American Bar Association did not take a position as to whether registration of disparaging trademarks should be allowed, but argued that the First Amendment allows use of disparaging trademarks even if disparaging marks cannot be registered with the Trademark Office.

The importance of registration is that it affords trademark owners certain legal protections in the event of a trademark infringement that are not available to owners of unregistered trademarks.The nation’s largest attorney organization, the American Bar Association, has submitted a brief to the United Stated Supreme Court in a case that may determine whether Washington’s NFL team can continue to register the name “Redskins” as its trademark.