As Hot Air reports, the Department of Justice has given up a court battle that would have forced the Washington Redskins football team to give up trademark protections for its name. The case was started when the Patent and Trademark Office that revoked the team’s trademark for its name citing the disparagement clause that prohibits trademarks that disparage people or groups of people. A Supreme Court case that involved an Asian band that wanted to trademark its name, “The Slants,” found the clause to be unconstitutional.

What is the background of the Redskins case?

The Washington Redskins has been a professional football team since 1932. Recently its name, considered disparaging to Native Americans, has become the subject of controversy. Several Native American groups have filed suit to force the name change. Some members of the sports media refuse to utter the team’s name in public, referring only to the “Washington football team.”

A distinct lack of enthusiasm exists for a name change among Redskins fans, however. Team owner Daniel Snyder has been particularly stubborn when pressured to make a change to the name.

The trademark case

In 2014, the United States Patent and Trademark Office decided to revoke the trademark for the Redskins, citing the disparagement clause.

While many considered the decision to be an example of government overreach, the appeal of the decision by the Washington Redskins had, thus far, failed in district courts. It was being mulled by the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th District.

The Matal v Tam case

The courts, in the meantime, have been litigating the case of an Asian band called “The Slants” and its effort to get its name trademarked.

The Patent and Trademark Office turned down its request, citing the disparagement clause. The band, noting that it was using the name to rob it of its derogatory power, appealed to federal court. The United States Supreme Court decided in favor of the band, noting that the first amendment protects even offensive speech.


Of course, the Tam decision makes the case being pursued by the Washington Redskins moot. The Justice Department and other parties to the court battle, have thrown in the towel and have petitionioned the court to find in favor of the Washington Redskins and professional football. The team will keep its trademark and will not be out millions of dollars in merchandising.

This development does not mean that the controversy is going away. Far from it. But the battle will now be fought out in the court of public opinion and not the actual courts.