Justice Department intervenes in Redskins trademark protection lawsuit

January 9, 2015 | Washington Post

The group of Native Americans fighting the Washington Redskins over the team’s trademark protections in a federal lawsuit got an important boost Friday after the Justice Department declared it would intervene and defend a key aspect of the twisted legal case.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, announced that the Justice Department would defend the constitutionality of a key provision of the Lanham Act, which bars trademarks that may disparage or bring people into “contempt or disrepute.”

The Redskins sued the Native Americans in the summer of 2014 after the group won a major decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeal board. The panel ruled that the football team’s name and logo offends a substantial number of Native Americans in violation of the Lanham Act and ordered that the team should be stripped of its trademark protections.

In its lawsuit against the Native Americans, the team has argued that the Lanham Act is “unconstitutionally vague” and that it “effectively chills First Amendment free speech rights.”

Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, has promised he’ll never change the name, which he says honors Native Americans.

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