Five Native Americans ask judge to dismiss Redskins lawsuit
WASHINGTON — Five Native Americans are asking a Virginia judge to dismiss a lawsuit the Washington Redskins filed after the group successfully challenged the team’s name, arguing it is offensive.
Lawyers for both sides were expected in federal court in Alexandria on Friday, where a judge was scheduled to hear arguments on whether the lawsuit should be thrown out.
The five won a victory earlier this year when a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office board ruled that six trademark registrations on the team’s name should be canceled because they were "disparaging to Native Americans" when registered. The board acted after the group of Native Americans petitioned it to cancel the trademark registrations.
After the board’s action, the team in August sued the five Native Americans, asking a federal court to stop the cancellation from happening.
The team, which has used Redskins as part of its name since 1933, says in court papers that the patent office board was wrong and that its trademarks are proper because the term was not offensive when the trademarks were registered. The team says canceling the trademarks, which were registered between 1967 and 1990, would violate the Constitution.
Lawyers for the five Native Americans argue that the Redskins’ lawsuit against them should be dismissed because the team’s real dispute is with the patent office.
But the Redskins argue the lawsuit is an appropriate, and even preferred, method of appealing the board’s decision. The team says the group of Native Americans is a proper target because it filed the petition that initiated the board’s action and have an interest in the outcome.
The team’s trademark protection remains in place while the issue makes its way through the courts. If the ruling ultimately stands, the team will still be able to use the name, but it would be tougher for it to go after others who use it without permission on clothing or other gear.