The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has ruled that the Washington Redskins trademark cannot be registered because it disparages Native Americans.
But the decision is expected to have a limited financial impact: The team can still sell Redskins merchandise.
The ruling makes it harder to defend against counterfeit imports from abroad — but it’s not like the team is suddenly very vulnerable.
“Generally speaking, if someone is selling counterfeit Redskins gear, Redskins would still be able to go to court to shut them down,” says UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.
Team owner Daniel Snyder has resisted pressure to change the Redskin’s name. Even though a name-change would mess with traditions, it could also inspire die-hard fans to go out and spend money on new T-shirts, caps or coffee mugs.
“It would be a financial windfall for the team from a marketing standpoint,” says Dan Bruton, a sports marketing professor at San Diego State University.
But the Redskins don’t appear any closer to changing the name.
In a written statement, the team’s lawyer says the Redskins plan to appeal the trademark decision.