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Trademark board rules against Redskins name

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 18, 2014
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photo - FILE - In this June 17, 2014, file photo, Washington Redskins helmets sit on the field during an NFL football minicamp in Ashburn, Va. The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday, June 18, 2014, that the Washington Redskins nickname is "disparaging of Native Americans" and that the team's federal trademarks for the name must be canceled. The ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
FILE - In this June 17, 2014, file photo, Washington Redskins helmets sit on the field during an NFL football minicamp in Ashburn, Va. The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday, June 18, 2014, that the Washington Redskins nickname is "disparaging of Native Americans" and that the team's federal trademarks for the name must be canceled. The ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday that the Washington Redskins nickname is “disparaging of Native Americans” and that the team’s federal trademarks for the name must be canceled.

The 2-1 ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year. The team doesn’t immediately lose trademark protection and is allowed to retain it during an appeal.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has refused to change the team’s name, citing tradition, but there has been growing pressure including statements in recent months from President Barack Obama, lawmakers of both parties and civil rights groups.

The decision means that the team can continue to use the Redskins name, but it would lose a significant portion of its ability to protect the financial interests connected to its use. If others printed the name on sweatshirts, apparel, or other team material, it becomes more difficult to go after groups who use it without permission.

The decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is similar to one it issued in 1999. That ruling was overturned in 2003 in large part on a technicality after the courts decided that the plaintiffs were too old and should have filed their complaint soon after the Redskins registered their nickname in 1967.

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