Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Washington "Redskins" - Disparaging Term or Valuable Tradition?: Legal and Economic Issues Concerning Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc.

Mark, Nagel and Daniel, Rascher (2007): Washington "Redskins" - Disparaging Term or Valuable Tradition?: Legal and Economic Issues Concerning Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc. Published in: Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal , Vol. 17, No. 3 (2007): pp. 789-804.

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Abstract

On October 1, 2003, Judge Colleen Koller-Kotellay issued a ruling finding there was insufficient evidence to decisively conclude that the name “Redskins” was disparaging to “American Indians” (Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc., 2003). This judgment overturned a 1999 United States Patent and Trademark Office decision that had revoked the National Football League’s Washington Redskins’ exclusive right to the use of the term “Redskins,” trademarked by the team in 1967. The 1999 Patent and Trademark Office decision did not prevent the Washington football club from using their six different registered trademarks, but removed their protection from competitors also using the registered trademarks. The pivotal issue, according to Koller-Kotellay, was the amount of time that had intervened between the granting of the trademark in 1967 and the plaintiff’s initial lawsuit in 1992.

Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc. raises many questions that will be the basis for the research: a) In light of Harjo, what is the legal threshold for determining legitimate contempt and/or disrepute? b) Under the Theory of Latches when is it too late to file a trademark infringement complaint? c) What are the stakes in this case, from both financial and policy perspectives?

This paper investigates the legal, policy, and financial considerations surrounding the Harjo decision, and more generally, the use of trademarks to generate licensed revenues.

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