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Supreme Court may rule soon on Trademark, 1st Amendment disputes

There appears to be a race to the courthouse regarding the Trademark protection the Washington Redskins NFL team has over its controversial nickname. The team wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review a July decision calling on the Patent and Trademark Office to cancel its trademark over the name “Redskins” on the grounds that is an offensive slur against Native Americans.

Meanwhile, another federal ruling, this one by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, found that the law the court relied on in the first decision, the 1946 Lanham Act, is partly unconstitutional. The team wants the Court to take up the July case first, NBC News reports.

That is because the team is concerned that if the Court rules on the second case first, it will sink its argument for protecting its Trademark. The second case involves a dance group called “The Slants” that applied for a Trademark. The founder, an Asian-American, said he wants to reclaim the slur, but the Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application on the grounds that the term “slants” is “immoral, deceptive or scandalous” per the Lanham Act.

But the troupe founder won on appeal, when the court found that part of the Act violates First Amendment free speech protections.

It’s important to remember that nothing the Supreme Court decides would force the team to change its name from “Redskins.” However, losing its Trademark protection would mean the team would no longer have exclusive rights to its name and logo. Manufacturers could begin selling unlicensed merchandise, and the team would not be able to stop it under federal law.

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