Building a Valuable Brand
Building a strong brand often involves trademarking a new name as part of the brand decision. By obtaining a trademark, the brand owner can control the growth of the brand and prevent others from harming or damaging the brand. Failing to protect the new name, the trademark owner runs the risk of decreasing the potential value of the new brand name.
History of the Redskins Trademarks
Over time, a good brand can enhance the value of a company while a bad brand can hurt the company. This is what happened with the Washington Redskins. In 1933, the Redskins name was created when the Boston Braves moved to Fenway Park. At that time, it was not uncommon to use a name which had a native american inference. Some claim the name was chosen as an honor to the some of the original team players who were native american. At the time, the term Redskins was a name which may have engendered feelings of strength and courage. At the time of its creation, it might have been a strong trademark. However, since then, the term has become a racial slur and disrespectful of native american.
Since at least 1988 Native American’s have demanded that the team no longer use the term “redskins” since that term is degrading and insulting to Native Americans. In addition, some have raised concerns that the use of the term “redskins” and the use of native american icons as cartoons is misappropriation of the native american culture.
Since 1992, the team lost trademark registrations based on trademark disputes brought in the United States Trademark Office. In 1992, the first trademark cancellation proceeding was brought against the team which resulted in the loss of all trademarks which contained the term REDSKINS in 1999. Ultimately, the team’s trademarks were determined to be offensive racial slurs which disparaged Native Americans. In 2015, the Supreme Court rendered the trademark issue moot when they determined that the disparagement clause violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. As a result, the team was able to regain their trademarks.
Earlier this month, the team announced that they will no longer use the term Redskins. This was based on recent racial protests along with pressure from the teams advertisers and sponsors. However, when the team made the announcement, they had not decided on a new name for their trademark. When they made the announcement, the team did not have a new name. Before the team wants to announce their new brand, they want to lock-in the trademark rights in the new name.
Trademarking a New Name
The value of the trademark related to a professional sports team is very high. By trademarking a new name, the team prevents others from stealing, squatting or trolling on their potential trademark rights. Protecting the trademark, helps avoid costly trademark issues down the road. Apparently, many potential names are already the subject of filed trademark applications. As a result, the team may find itself in a trademark dispute based on the already filed trademark applications. In these types of cases, the potential user may have to pursue a lawsuit or simply pay the trademark applicant the right to acquire the new name.
- To Protect your brand you should consider the following 5 steps:
- Choose a strong trademark. One which is distinctive and not descriptive or generic.
- Conduct a comprehensive trademark search to see if the term is in use.
- Register the brand for trademark protection.
- Protect your trademark by maintaining the registration and monitoring or policing use of others.
Whatever it does, the naming decision will allow the team to chose a strong name with over 80 years of history and fanatics who will rapidly start buying up all the new clothing, hats and accessories.