By Ian Simpson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Washington Redskins expect a legal case involving cancellation of the NFL team’s trademarks to move more quickly than a previous case that took nearly 11 years to conclude in the franchise’s favor, a lawyer for the team said on Thursday.
On Wednesday, a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tribunal canceled six Redskins trademarks because they disparage Native Americans. The team has said it will appeal the ruling in federal court, and the trademark protection remains until appeals are concluded.
The team’s trademark lawyer, Bob Raskopf, told Reuters the case would likely be resolved more quickly than the previous one involving a 1999 Patent Office tribunal ruling since the appeal would be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia rather than in a Washington court.
“It’s known for the speedier resolutions. It’s called the ‘rocket docket.’ … They move cases quickly,” Raskopf said.
The previous case took almost 11 years to conclude until the Supreme Court declined to hear it in 2009, with the Redskins retaining their trademark protection.
Citing tradition, team owner Daniel Snyder for 14 years has defied calls to change the club’s name, which dates from the 1930s. The Redskins have come under increasing pressure from Native American groups, politicians and others over the name.
Raskopf said he had talked with Snyder about an appeal and he is “as optimistic as I am.”
The team wanted to win the case, Blackhorse v Pro Football Inc., on the merits so the issue of the name can finally be resolved, he said.
The earlier case was decided on a technical issue, with a District of Columbia court ruling that the petitioners had waited too long to assert their rights as adults after the first Redskins’ trademark was issued in 1967.
Raskopf said he was confident since the arguments in the current case were the same as that in the 1999 case. The three-member tribunal board also had split, adding to his optimism, he said.
Amanda Blackhorse, the named plaintiff in the case, said increasing public opposition to the Redskins’ name would help during the appeals process.
Redskins “is a term that has been created for us by the colonizers. They use that word to oppress us,” Blackhorse, a Navajo psychiatric social worker, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Eric Beech and Will Dunham)