The only thing worse than a frivolous lawsuit is a frivolous repeat of a frivolous lawsuit:
A group of Native Americans filed a new legal challenge yesterday to trademarks for the name and logo of the Washington Redskins, saying the team’s name is a racial slur that should be changed.
A petition filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by six Native Americans represents a second chance for Indians to challenge the football franchise’s name. The team prevailed in an earlier fight when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the plaintiffs waited too long under trademark law to object. This time, the complaint was filed with a new set of plaintiffs.
“The term ‘redskin’ was and is a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for a Native American person,” the complaint says.
Whatever thesaurus the plaintiffs are using, I want one. I’m surprised the complaint didn’t add “just plain icky.”
The litigation is premised on patent and trademark law, about which I know exactly zero. But let’s pretend this were a torts lawsuit.
Group libel is always a fun topic. It’s also always a loser in court — unless the group is unambiguously defined (e.g., “Every single member of the Washington Redskins uses illegal drugs…” would be actionable defamation at common law. “Most members of the Washington Redskins use illegal drugs…” would not).
So first and foremost there simply is no tort. And if there were, there would be a question of standing (who exactly qualifies as a “Redskin” capable of being offended?). And injunctive relief is not a typical tort remedy. Oh, and let’s not forget that pesky collateral estoppel problem.
Did we learn nothing from the Mohammad cartoon riots? Not every umbrage deserves correction, either in the courts or in the streets.
One sports trademark is “Just Do It.” Perhaps another should be “Just Deal With It.”