Without comment, the Supreme Court on Monday morning denied review in Harjo v. Pro-Football Inc., a challenge brought by Native Americans who assert that the name of the Washington Redskins is offensive and should be denied trademark status.
The long-running dispute began in 1992 when Native American groups sought cancellation of the trademark under the provision of the Lanham Act that prohibits trademarks that disparage persons "living or dead." But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the challenge was barred by the doctrine of laches, which acts as a statute of limitations to protect defendants from lawsuits over long-ago violations of rights.
As we reported when the petition was filed in September, the Native American groups are represented by Philip Mause of Drinker Biddle & Reath, who said the Redskins name was "a derogatory term for Indians that sticks out like an anomaly." Social scientists filed amicus curiae briefs asserting that stereotypes and slurs are "particularly harmful" when used in connection with sports teams.
Robert Raskopf of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, representing the team, said the team had spent millions of dollars to promote and protect its mark for 25 years before the trademark was challenged. He argued that laches was appropriate as a prohibition against the suit.
Read more at the Am Law Daily blog: Onto Plan B (Or is it Plan C?) for Drinker Biddle in Redskins Trademark Case.
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.