Seeing Red

In a decision that few found surprising, a U.S. District Court judge denied a motion to dismiss an action seeking review of the decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel six trademark registrations using the term REDSKINS. The suit was brought by the owner of the Washington Redskins NFL franchise, owned by Plaintiff Pro-Football, Inc. The defendants, who filed the motion to dismiss, are the same five Native Americans who successfully sought cancellation of the registration at the agency level registrations on the grounds that they are scandalous and disparaging, in violation of the Lanham Act. This time around, the Native Americans argued that there is no judicially cognizable dispute between the parties because they do not have a direct stake in the outcome and are not “parties in interest” because they have no economic or legal interest in the marks. Judge Gerald Lee rejected the motion for several reasons. In particular, he noted that the “Defendants’ cancellation petition [in the TTAB] demonstrated that they have a sufficient interest in the registration to constitute…‘adverse parties’ and ‘parties in interest’” under 15 U.S.C. § 1071. This means the dispute over the name of Washington, D.C.’s National Football League team continues. (Pro-Football, Inc., v. Blackhorse, et al., Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-01043-GBL-IDD (E.D. Va. November 25, 2014).