Pro-Football Inc. v. Harjo

Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo, 284 F. Supp. 2d 96

Facts: In 1992, Harjo(an activist) brought forth a petition to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board(TTAB) on behalf of 7 Native Americans. Harjo sought the cancellation of 6 trademarks owned by Pro-Football, Inc, the corporate entity that owns the Washington Redskins of the NFL. Harjo claimed that under the Lanham Act 2(a) a mark may not be registered or protected if it consists of matter that may disparage persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols, or bring them into contempt or disrepute.

-- The TTAB relied on this provision and cancelled the "Redskins" mark. The TTAB found that the mark disparaged Native Americans. The Board made the determination that disparagement should be evaluated from a substantial component of Native Americans NOT a substantial component of the general public (more precise) as of the time of of registration. The Board found that the Redskins mark brought Native Americans into contempt and disrepute for the same reasons the TTAB found that it disparaged Native Americans. The Board also held it unnecessary to find that the mark claimant INTENDED to disparage.

This decision was appealed to federal district court, who agreed with the standard as stated by the Board, but held that the TTAB lacked sufficient evidence to find ground to cancel the the Redskins mark under 2(a) of the Lanham Act.

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