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Notice of appeal filed in Redskins trademark case

WASHINGTON - The plaintiffs in the Washington Redskins trademark case have filed the notice of appeal that will carry their case forward following last month's ruling against them, Suzan Shown Harjo said.

The last day for filing the notice with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was Oct. 31. The next step will be to file a brief in the appeal.

Norm D. St. Landau, a trademarks attorney with Drinker, Biddle and Reath in Philadelphia, will work on the appeal along with Michael Lindsay of Dorsey & Whitney, the plaintiffs' longtime attorney of record in the case. Lindsay and company won a unanimous ruling against the Redskins' trademarks from the Trial Trademark and Appeal Board in 1999. The board found the Washington Redskins' family of football trademarks disparaging to Indians. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overturned it on Oct. 1, ruling that the case had been filed too long after the trademarks' issuance in 1967 and that the board's findings were inadequate to cancel the trademark protections of the team's name, logo and related properties.

St. Landau said the appeal will respectfully disagree with Kollar-Kotelly on the legal point behind her ruling on the delay in challenging the trademarks. Such Laches cases, as they are known in legal parlance, usually turn on whether the party claiming injury had relied on the party charged with delay, St. Landau said. In the current case, he added, the trademark owners did not rely on the litigants in any way.

On the issue of the predominant evidence put forward by Harjo, et al, St. Landau stated, "We firmly believe that the TTAB took great care to review a very lengthy and detailed record and then drew reasoned inferences from that record."

St. Landau comes to the case through a colleague at Dorsey & Whitney. He teaches trademark law at Cornell University, where he has made almost full-day presentations on the case for the past four years, he said. He finds it an interesting case for attorneys. "You're trying to prove what a group of people believes or does not believe."

In addition, the Indian cause is a just one in his view and he looks forward to renewing a long-standing interest in public service litigation.