The US Department of Justice has now involved itself in the legal battle over the use of ‘Redskins’ that is going on between the Washington football team and Native Americans (and activists). While one of the attorneys for a Native American believes that the intervening of the Department of Justice gives the Native Americans (and activists) the upper hand, Josh Gerben disagrees. What Josh does agree with, which he further details in this article, is that whatever the outcome may be, it will have a large impact on trademark law in the United States.
From the article:
“We are pleased that the Department of Justice is intervening on our side,” said Jesse Witten, the attorney for one of the Native Americans named in the suit, in a statement. He believes that the Justice Department’s action stokes momentum for those who are fighting the team name. “It will be a big help.”
Some trademark experts disagree.
“It’s like scoring a home run in the bottom of the first,” says trademark attorney Josh Gerben. “You’ve still got eight innings to go. It’s not an overwhelming victory for the Native Americans at this point.”
In fact, the Department of Justice action doesn’t directly address whether the team name is a slur unworthy of trademark protection. Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce Branda said in a recent statement, “The Department of Justice is dedicated to defending the constitutionality of the important statute ensuring that trademark issues involving disparaging and derogatory language are dealt with fairly.”
Gerben puts it this way: “They just want to protect the constitutionality of the Lanham Act for the future,” he says.