Daily Archives: June 25, 2014

THE REDSKINS TRADEMARKS: CANCELLATION AND CONSEQUENCES

The cancellation of the six REDSKINS trademark registrations is not so much a victory for American Indians, as it is a defeat for commercial speech, which means a defeat for the First Amendment.

According to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), 30% of American Indians consider REDSKINS a disparaging and offensive term.  Even assuming that is so — and the flimsy record in the case does not inspire confidence — the decision should alarm Americans of every category.  For the logic of the TTAB’s ruling gives any minority faction — regardless of the merit of their position — the power to deprive others of the important governmental benefit of trademark registration, which is a form of constitutionally protected commercial speech.

redskins mark

Many commentators have viewed the case as a contest over respect for Native Americans.  But the TTAB ruling transcends the trademarks in question.  One does not have to agree that a word with obvious racial overtones like “redskins” is an appropriate choice for a football team, to appreciate the chilling effects of the ruling.

The root of the danger does not lie with the 2-1 majority decision to cancel.  It lies with the law they applied.    Continue reading

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