The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has deemed the word “Redskin” unfit for protection under trademark laws because it is “disparaging.” The case document cites five dictionaries and news sources including MSNBC, the Washington Post, and ICTMN.
This is good news, although not the best news, for those who would like to see the Washington NFL franchise change its name. The Patent Office was not, unfortunately, addressing the Redskins football team — the trademark application had been submitted for a product called “Redskins Hog Rinds.”
That’s right — the U.S. Patent Office denied a trademark for a “Redskins” brand of pork rinds on grounds that it’s a racist term, but the Washington NFL team still retains the trademark on its name.
A ruling on the pending Washington Redskins trademark case “could come any day,” according to an article about the pork-rind case in the Washington Post.
What should be made clear is that the U.S. government has declined to protect the product name Redskins Hog Rinds; the company that makes the product is not forbidden to use the name. There is much confusion in the comments on the WaPo article, with posters bemoaning political correctness and an encroachment on free speech. One of the readers explains the difference between censorship and this ruling: “You have the right to say anything you want if you’re not attempting to incite violence, but the federal government doesn’t have to grant you exclusive rights to profit from your bigotry.”