RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's official: the Redskins trademark case moves to Richmond's federal court of appeals - the final step before a potential U.S. Supreme Court showdown.
Initial briefs must be filed by the end of September, with final briefs due by Dec. 22. The case will be heard in 2016.
If the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the cancellation of the trademark, the Redskins' final appeal would go to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, the team's federal trademark remains in place throughout the appeals process.
A cancellation of a federal trademark doesn't mean anybody can produce and sell unauthorized Redskins merchandise without penalty. It would mainly affect such items that entered the country from abroad. The logo and name still have the protection of various other trademarks and copyrights.
The NFL says the team's name is protected under the First Amendment. But this summer, a lower federal court in Alexandria disagreed.
In July, a judge ruled a trademark is considered government speech, protected by the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. If the government thinks protected trademarks or symbols are offensive to a large group of people, federal authorities are no longer bound to protect them.
An example - Confederate license plates. The Supreme Court ruled in June of 2015 that license plates are considered government speech. The justices ruled Texas was no longer compelled to issue the controversial plates, with the same ruling now applying to Virginia.
There's also the issue of whether taking away the trademark amounts to illegally taking property, without just compensation. The Fifth Amendment prohibits such conduct, and potentially sets the stage for a Supreme Court showdown regardless of the outcome in Richmond.
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