Move to trademark the phrase “Redskins Hog Rinds” rejected by USPTO

The USPTO has rejected a recent move to trademark the phrase “REDSKINS HOG RINDS” to be used in connection with pork rinds.  It was rejected on the basis of Trademark Act Section 2(a), which states that the applied-for mark consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs or national symbols.  The decision also mentioned that there are about five definitions in the dictionary which refers the word “Redskins” as either offensive, slang, disparaging or taboo.

In a similar, but unrelated case presently before the USPTO, the owners of Washington Redskins football team are awaiting a decision on whether the trademark “REDSKINS”, which they have applied for registration will be cancelled or not.  The controversy and legal battles over this trademark have been ongoing since 1992, when the US patent office was requested by several prominent Native Americans to cancel the registrations for the trademark which was owned by Pro-Football, Inc.  This legal battle continued for 7 years until the mark was eventually cancelled in 1999 by the USPTO.

However, this decision by USPTO was later cancelled by the court on the grounds of insufficient evidence, and subsequent appeals were rejected as the Native Americans did not pursue their rights in a timely manner. The current case, however, was filed by younger plaintiffs whose standing might not be hindered by laches.

The term “REDSKINS” is not the only word which the USPTO has recently observed to be derogatory. Last year, the trademark appeals board refused to register the name of a rock band “THE SLANTS”, since the term was a derogatory slang phrase for people of Asian descent.

The recent rejections of the applications for ‘REDSKINS HOG RINDS’ and ‘THE SLANTS’ do not indicate an favourable outcome for the owners of the Washington Redskins,  in their pending case.  An unfavourable outcome would mean that the Washington Redskins would lose several benefits conferred by a federal trademark registration, which in turn would eventually lead to a significant loss of revenue.

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