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Pro-Football Inc., wins ruling over trademark

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WASHINGTON - U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a ruling Oct. 1 in the 11-year battle between Native rights leaders including Suzan Shown Harjo and Vine Deloria Jr. and Pro-Football, Inc., owners of the team, over the use of a name supporters say is disparaging to American Indians. In an 84-page decision, Kollar-Kotelly said that the 1999 decision made by a panel of the U.S. Trademark Office was based on incomplete data when it ruled the team's name offensive and should not be given legal protection.

According to an Associated Press report, "team officials say the name is meant to honor American Indians." The owners claim that the Redskins "would face massive financial losses if it lost the exclusivity of the brand it has marketed for 36 years."

It is likely that an appeal will be brought about by Harjo and the other petitioners, Michael Lindsey, one of their lawyers for the case said.

In 1992, Harjo began the lawsuit asking the Trademark Office to cancel the Redskin trademarks under federal Lanham Act, which prohibits registering names if they are "disparaging, scandalous, contemptuous or disreputable." The recent decision overruled the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's agreement to cancel the trademark.

Another factor Kollar-Kotelly used in her decision was that the Indian leaders waited too long to make their claims, 25 years after the Redskins first registered their trademark.

The complete ruling is available on line at http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/district-court-recent.html