The Washington Redskins can sue the Native Americans responsible for the team losing its trademark, a federal judge said on Friday. The group had asked for the suit to be dismissed, saying they have no financial stake in the outcome of the ruling.
US District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee heard arguments Friday from both the team and the five Native Americans named in the suit as to whether the case should be thrown out. In June, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) ruled that six trademark registrations on the team’s name should be canceled. Navajo activist Amanda Blackhorse along with Phillip Glover, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Jillian Pappan and Courtney Tsotigh filed the petition with the PTO, claiming the name was “disparaging to Native Americans” when registered. In response, the team sued the group, asking for a chance to defend its name in court.
A lawyer for the Native Americans, Jesse Witten, argued that his clients should be left out of the dispute and that the lawsuit against them should be dismissed, as they aren’t qualified to be defendants in the trademark case because they don’t have a legal or economic motive to control the Redskins’ logo as a rival business might, according to the Washington Post. He also argued the Redskins should have filed suit with the US Court of Appeals, not district court.
“They stand to gain nothing or lose nothing,” the group’s attorneys’ motion to dismiss said. “Although [the Native Americans] might be pleased or disappointed with the outcome of this case, that does not make them ‘parties in interest’,” as defined by federal trademark law.
But Bob Raskopf, one of the team’s attorneys, seemed exasperated by the Native Americans’ argument that they are no longer valid parties in the case, the Post reported.
“I’m a bit surprised by what I’m hearing,” he said. The Native Americans are, indeed, the right people to sue, he added, because if not for them, the patent board would never have declared that the team’s trademark protections should be stripped.