"Redskins" Trademark Rejected as "Offensive" "Derogatory Slang"

Dramatic Ruling Could Lead to Ban of On-Air Use of "Redskins" by Broadcasters, as Well as Loss of Trademarks by NFL Team
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Washington - District of Columbia - US

WASHINGTON - Jan. 7, 2014 - PRLog -- WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 8, 2013):  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has refused to register a trademark for a name containing the word "Redskins," ruling that it contained "a derogatory slang term” which is "offensive."  This ruling might serve as a predicate and predictor for a pending decision by the same agency to revoke several "Redskins" trademarks related to the NFL football team.

        In addition, it would provide precedent for an effort by several former FCC commissioners and officials to require broadcasters to refrain from using the word on the air, especially during daytime hours, suggests public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who first suggested using broadcast law as a weapon against the continued and unnecessary use of the word on the nation's airwaves.

        Twelve experts in broadcast regulation, including several former FCC commissioners and FCC counsel, have written that using the word "Redskin" on the air is likely to be contrary to federal law because it constitutes an "indecency" if not an "obscenity," and that the FCC should take appropriate steps to stop its continued use if the owner does not promptly change the team's name.

        Their carefully considered legal opinion provides further support for a legal project begun several years ago by Banzhaf to formally challenge the license renewal of broadcasters which unnecessary use the "R-word" [equivalent to the "N-word]; a word which has been found in several legal proceedings to be indecent, derogatory, and racist.

        Banzhaf, whom Reader's Digest called "The Man Behind the Ban on Cigarette Commercials," also was the attorney behind a challenge to the renewal of the broadcast license of another major TV station in 1969 because, like virtually all other stations at the time, it refused to use African Americans in meaningful on-the-air roles. Shortly after the license challenge was filed, and long before it was decided, that station as well as others in the DC area made a dramatic change in policy and began employing blacks as on-air reporters, as principles in locally-originated programming, and in executive positions.

        The letter from former FCC chairman Reed Hundt and 11 other broadcast experts say the R-word is the most derogatory name a Native American can be called, and is an "unequivocal racial slur" akin to the N-word. They liken the use of Redskin to an "obscenity," which is illegal on the airwaves in any form, rather than simply an "indecency" which is restricted to certain times of the day
        Even if the word "Redskins" only constitutes an "indecency," it cannot be used on the air during daytime.  Also, a word which is so offense to many American Indians constitutes a "profanity," which the FCC says includes “language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.”  It also cannot be used on the air when it can be heard by children.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418
http://banzhaf.net/ @profbanzhaf

GWU Law School
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Tags:Redskins, Trademark, Offensive, Fcc, Derogatory
Industry:Legal, Sports
Location:Washington - District of Columbia - United States
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