It's been a long running dispute: is "Redskins" an appropriate name for the Washington, D.C. football team? That debate has finally reached the Supreme Court in the case titled Susan Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc.
Attorney Philip Mause filed the petition to hear the case. Mause represents a group of Native Americans offended by the name
"This is a derogatory term for Indians that sticks out like an anomaly," said Mause. "No other group still has to deal with this kind of a term being used" in such a public and widespread way.
The case began with a petition in 1992 to cancel the Redskins trademark under the Lanham Act. The Lanham Act bars trademarks that "disparage ... persons living or dead ... or bring them into contempt, or disrepute."
The latest ruling by a U.S. Court of Appeals said the Harjo claims were barred by the doctrine of laches. This doctrine acts like a statute of limitations. It protects defendants from being sued for long-ago violations of rights.
But Mause says that the doctrine does not apply, because the law allows cancellations of trademarks "at any time." He cites a 2001 ruling by another U.S. Court of Appeals in the case of Marshak v. Treadwell, in which now-Justice Samuel Alito Jr. said trademark cancellation claims are not time-barred. "We hope that ruling will be of some help," said Mause.
Mause also suggests that "the views of the United States may be helpful to the Court." Mause said the U.S. trademark office has previously sided with the Native Americans.
The government, however, has not spoken on whether the Supreme Court should take up the issue. Even without the government filing a brief, it is unlikely the Court will act on the petition this year, Mause indicated.
"Harjo: Get Educated"
Read the transcript of Suzan Shown Harjo's chat with ESPN listeners about the Washington Redskins name.