Trademark for pork rinds denied, as D.C.’s NFL team’s name is under scrutiny

While Hoyas were celebrating the end of finals with substances and frumpy holiday sweaters, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board examined whether referring to the heart-endangering snack food, pork rinds, as “Redskins” was permissible. The TTAB ultimately rejected the use of this term for the snack food, as it is a derogatory slang term for Native Americans. This decision also holds implications for the District’s pigskin throwing team – the Washington Redskins.

The case centered around an trademark application for the pork rind brand “Redskins Hog Rinds.” In the final decision, the federal body wrote: “Registration is refused because the applied-for mark Redskins Hog Rinds consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”

The recent discussion of this hot and sticky word directed attention to a more-well known trademark: the Washington Redskins, the District’s NFL team.

Last March, the football  team had a case brought against its name to the TTAB. The case was initiated by a group of Native American activists seeking to strip the Redskin franchise of its trademark, arguing the same reason that deprived a pork rind company of its desired name. The ruling of the snack food case has left the plaintiff of the Washington Redskins case hopeful.

Jesse Witten, partner at the prosecuting law firm, said to the Washington Post: “We’re very encouraged by this decision by the trademark office, and we look forward to getting a ruling in our case.”

Bruce Allen, the Washington Redskins general manager, disagreed with the logic behind the board’s wariness of term’s use.

“If you look at everything that we represent, you’ll find that the Washington Redskins has a positive image,” Allen said, “and much more positive this year with a winning season.”

Judge Peter Cataldo countered the general manager’s compelling argument by asking if the team could have called itself the “Washington N-word” and still be subject to scrutiny.

Moreover, contention has resulted from the disparity between rejecting the term pertaining to the oily snack (that honestly takes a back seat to regular potato chips) but not the much more recognizable NFL team.

Even if the TTAB rules in the plaintiff’s favor, the board has no authority to literally “strip” the name away. Rather, the Redskins would receive no protection for the sale of unlicensed merchandise.

With the TTAB’s decision on the football team is still pending, Allen asserted in March that there were no plans to change the name, demonstrating our nation’s boundless respect for sports and indigenous cultures.

Photo: Addison Berry via Flickr

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>