The US Patent and Trademark Office and the Washington Redskins are embroiled in a fight over whether the Redskins name is too offensive to qualify as a trademark. The Redskins have tried various tacks, including invoking the First Amendment, arguing that the Constitution guarantees them the right to be offensive and to then have the government stop other people from copying their offensiveness, but now they've taken a new — and surprisingly compelling — direction.
In a new filing [PDF], the Redskins' lawyers point out that if being horrible and offensive disqualifies you from having a trademark, then the USPTO has a lot of housecleaning to do, because there are a fuckload of offensive trademarks that the US government has no visible plans to deal with (though not all the marks that the Redskins' lawyers cite are offensive, and many are not offensive in the same way as the Redskins' mark — though a few are pretty close).
As Timothy Geiner writes on Techdirt, this isn't a case of the government withdrawing its endorsement of the Redskins' offensive name, it's a case of the government picking and choosing which offensive speech does and does not warrant government protection in the form of a trademark.
The PTO has registered hundreds if not thousands of marks that the Team believes are racist, or misogynistic, vulgar, or otherwise offensive. 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…
…No one today thinks registration reflects government approval. But if this Court holds that it does, how will the government explain registrations like MARIJUANA FOR SALE, CAPITALISM SUCKS DONKEY BALLS, LICENSED SERIAL KILLER, YID DISH, DIRTY WHOOORE CLOTHING COMPANY, and MURDER 4 HIRE?
How The Redskins' Delightfully Vulgar Court Filing Won Me Over