Washington “Redskins” Appeal An “Offensive Content” Ruling By Likening Themselves to Porn Trademarks

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After a federal judge ruled to uphold the trademark cancellation of the Washington “Redskins” team name, on the grounds that the name is “offensive content,” the team’s legal counsel has decided to appeal that decision. In their opening brief, they’re showing how unfair they think the ruling is by listing off a lot of other examples of patents and trademarks that have what they see as equally “offensive” names, none of which have been struck down:

By way of example only, the following marks are registered today: TAKE YO PANTIES OFF clothing; DANGEROUS NEGRO shirts; SLUTSSEEKER dating services; DAGO SWAGG clothing; DUMB BLONDE beer; TWATTY GIRL cartoons; BAKED BY A NEGRO bakery goods; BIG TITTY BLEND coffee; RETARDIPEDIA website; MIDGET-MAN condoms and inflatable sex dolls; and JIZZ underwear. These are not isolated instances. The government routinely registers pornographers’ marks: TEENSDOPORN.COM, MILFSDOPORN.COM, THUG PORN, GHETTO BOOTY, and BOUND GANGBANGS are but a few.

Those are only “a few,” of course. But don’t worry. They list several more.

Other startling examples that would reflect government endorsement under the decision below include: SHANK THE B!T@H board game; CRACKA AZZ SKATEBOARDS; ANAL FANTASY COLLECTION, KLITORIS, and OMAZING SEX TOYS sex toys; HOT OCTOPUSS anti-premature ejaculation creams; OL GEEZER wines; EDIBLE CROTCHLESS GUMMY PANTIES lingerie; WTF WORK? online forum; MILF WEED bags; GRINGO STYLE SALSA; MAKE YOUR OWN DILDO; GRINGO BBQ; CONTEMPORARY NEGRO, F’D UP, WHITE TRASH REBEL, I LOVE VAGINA, WHITE GIRL WITH A BOOTY, PARTY WITH SLUTS, CRIPPLED OLD BIKER BASTARDS, DICK BALLS, and REDNECK ARMY apparel; OH! MY NAPPY HAIR shampoos; REFORMED WHORES and WHORES FROM HELL musical bands; LAUGHING MY VAGINA OFF entertainment; NAPPY ROOTS records; BOOTY CALL sex aids; BOYS ARE STUPID, THROW ROCKS AT THEM wallets; and DUMB BLONDE hair products. Word limits prevent us from listing more.

It is pretty silly to imagine anyone interpreting the phrase “anal fantasy” as somehow as bad as a racial slur. I do realize this is just a legal argument, and not necessarily reflective of the actual views of the legal counsel (nor even the Washington team owners), but it doesn’t seem like a very sound argument to me. I’ll be pretty surprised if it works, but that’s just my non-lawyerly opinion!

There are only a couple of examples among the names listed here that I might consider to be worthwhile comparisons, because some of these names could conceivably bother other advocacy groups if the accompanying brands were more widely known. As just one example, I could envision a situation in which that condom brand with “midget” in their title would come under fire. But there’s a pretty big difference, contextually, between a condom brand, or a record label, or a T-shirt company, versus a very popular and visible sports team. The way that sports teams use their name to identify their players is inherently different from the way that other companies might use their name. It’s one thing to have an offensive word be the name of your company; it’s another thing to also use that word to refer to all of your employees, and to also have that word be central to their identity.

I’m not sure that the laws about trademarks account for those differences in context — but there’s no denying that the name of a sports team is going to be a lot more visible and well-known than the name of, well, a board game. Although I’m sure that “Shank the Bitch” game appreciates the boost to their game’s Kickstarter, which they intended to launch two years ago but never did (yet). Maybe they will now, what with all the great publicity they’re getting?

(via Uproxx, image via Uniform Critics)

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Author
Maddy Myers
Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).