Recently, the USPTO cancelled several trademark registrations based on the NFL’s team name. After years of controversy from Native Americans, and most recently politicians, the registrations have been revoked.
Trademarks are one of the most valuable intellectual property assets that a company or organization can have. In fact, some of the most popular trademarks command tens of billions of dollars (e.g., Coca-Cola, Nike’s swoosh, etc.). For over eight decades, the Washington NFL team has enjoyed the benefits of its Redskins trademark. In order to create an effective brand, it can take time, marketing efforts, and money to make it recognized and worthy. Given that the team has been known as the Redskins for more than 80 years indicates how much value the name is to the team.
While the NFL team is likely to appeal the USPTO’s decision, it will still take time and money to get to a final decision. In the meantime, the team has less control over counterfeit products reflecting the team name, much less reaping rewards of infringement. This means it could lose major income from counterfeiters. Further, the controversy remains in the meantime.
The Washington team is in a tough spot with this ongoing debate. If it were to change it’s name, it would have to build its brand all over again. The time, effort, and money to do this would be tremendous. Further, the issue is so controversial that no matter what the team does, there will be those who oppose the decision, whether it is to keep the name or to change it. If it were to change its name, some may not approve or like the new one chosen. If the team is forced to change its name, it could be a costly endeavor. It’s no wonder the team is fighting hard to keep its trademark.