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Friday, June 20, 2014


It seems that the “Redskins” trademark is far from an isolated incident of censorship by the US Patent and Trademark office.  See this article http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/upshot/redskins-isnt-the-only-name-the-patent-office-has-blocked.html?hpw&rref=&_r=0

I must admit that that I was totally unaware that patent office personnel, who no one elected, had this power of discretion (censorship?).

Does this scare anyone other than me?


  1. It's not censorship, since they can still use the name, it's just that other football teams can now use the name "redskins".

    Also, the indian head logo (like on the side of the helmets) is still trademarked, mainly because it does not say the word "redskins". If they really wanted to stick to their guns, they can still use the name.

    1. Michael,
      I'm having trouble with the logic. If they can still use the name, then it is not censorship.
      What if the government fines them $10,000 / day for using it.
      Do you stand by: If they can still use the name, then it is not censorship.

    2. Michael, I will concede that the word censorship may not be quite accurate in this instance since they can still use the term “Redskins”. So I will change my question to:

      Does it may anyone uncomfortable that the Patent Office can deny (indeed revoke) trademark protection based on their perception of offensive?

  2. If they were fined for using the name, I would call that censorship and it would make me uneasy - in spite of the fact that I am in the camp who thinks they need to get rid of the name.

    I also sympathize with Tom's suggestion that Patent Office action based on their perception of offensive is potentially troublesome, but I tend to think that most would expect them to have a limit somewhere.

    I can think of loads of possible team names that would be extremely offensive to larger swaths of the population - at a certain point I imagine we would find it reasonable for the Patent Office to say, "no, we won't trademark THAT." For me, the term "Redskins" would fall under that category.

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    1. George Will (who I do not follow, although I sometimes agree with him) offers an interesting article.

      George Will on Patent Office Move .

      (same comment as before, but repairing the link and how it appears)