Faleomavaega & Colleagues Introduce Bill to Cancel Federal Trademark Registrations Using the Word "Redskin"

March 26, 2013

This week, Congressman Faleomavaega introduced H.R. 1278, the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013.  This bill seeks to clarify certain protections provided by the Trademark Act of 1946 (Lanham Act), which prohibits registration of trademarks that use disparaging terms like “redskin.”  The bill was sponsored by Tom Cole (R-OK), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Karen Bass (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), John Lewis (D-GA), Michael Honda (D-CA), and Donna Christensen (D-VI).

The announcement from Congressman Faleomavaega noted the support his office received from a number of groups, including PIJIP.  A letter signed by seven  of ourfaculty members thanked the Congressman for introducing the legislation.  It noted that

PIJIP faculty members Professors Victoria Phillips and Christine Haight Farley have collaborated with Dr. Suzan Harjo and other advocates to help rid the American sports world of its most racist slur, the name of the Washington, D.C. football franchise.  They authored an amicus brief on behalf of law professors whose research and teaching focus is intellectual property law, federal Indian law and constitutional law supporting the petition for review by the United States Supreme Court in Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc (2009).  The amicus brief argued that the doctrine of laches should not apply to trademark cancellation claims based on disparagement because of the strong public interest in elimination damaging stereotyping and stigmatization.  These harms are deserving of protection no matter what private harm may be caused by delay to a trademark registrant. As the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in the United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) correctly found in 1999, Pro-Football's trademark is disparaging to a substantial composite of Native Americans.


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