This month found the Supreme Court reviewing the Lanham Act, a fun-filled little federal statute governing trademarks that’s been around since the Truman Administration. Specifically the Court was interested in a part of the Act known as the “disparagement clause” which gave the US Patent and Trademark Office the right to refuse to register certain trademarks. The Office’s broad authority could be wielded when certain trademarks might disparage any “persons living or dead,” and it was this broadness the Court saw as troubling. In a unanimous decision the Court found the law to be in violation of the First Amendment, and somewhere deep within a Potomac mansion, Daniel Snyder cracked open some champagne.
Up to this point the Trademark Office had used this clause as a basis for refusing to protect the Washington Redskins trademark, but it appears this will be rescinded (so better move all that bootlegged Redskins gear you were hoping to hawk outside FedEx Field this fall!). This unanimous decision strongly suggests the Redskins have officially won the fight to protect their name. Unless organizational pressure (from the NFL) or external pressure (from the fan-base) forces a shift in the mindset, there will be a Washington Redskins football team for the foreseeable future.