Dan Snyder’s commitment to his offensive team name, the Washington Redskins, is about to be put to the test now that the US Patent Office has canceled his trademark on a 2-1 vote, ESPN reports. Snyder can and almost certainly will appeal the decision, but if the cancelation stands he will have to decide whether thumbing his nose at the nation is worth losing millions and angering his fellow NFL owners.
Washington Redskins: Snyder will feel pressure from 30 other NFL owners
The Washington Redskins’ name has come under fire in the past, and even though there is a broad consensus that it ought to be changed, as long as Snyder was willing to be mocked on late night TV it wasn’t clear that anyone had leverage to make him do so. But now that he has lost the trademark, merchandisers don’t have to cut him in with royalties anymore. Counterfeit merchandise with the team name is suddenly legal and can undercut official league jerseys, shirts, hats and the rest.
Even if Snyder decided that he was willing to lose millions to keep the team name what it is, which seems pretty doubtful, he’s not the only one with money on the line. Every team in the league apart from the Dallas Cowboys is part of a league revenue sharing deal. So whenever a Washington t-shirt gets sold royalty-free, Snyder is costing 30 other NFL owners money. It might remain behind the scenes, but you can bet that they will pressure him to finally come up with something else.
US Patent Office decision in line with previous decisions
The Washington Redskins trademark was overturned once before in 1999, but the decision was appealed and overturned in 2003 (which gives you an idea how long we might have to wait before we see a different name on their jerseys). The Patent Office has also refused to grant related trademarks to Snyder for terms like ‘Redskin Fanatics’ and ‘Redskin Roosters’ because they were too offensive, reports Cindy Boren for The Washington Post, so the offensive name has actually held back the team’s marketing efforts. Denying an application and canceling a trademark are different matters, but Snyder should have seen this coming.
If Snyder had changed the name a year or two ago he could have spun the whole thing as a change of heart, but it’s probably too late for that now.