What does the trademark ruling really mean for the Redskins?

Published: Jun. 18, 2014 at 11:29 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - What does the decision today by the Trademark and Patent Office really mean for the Redskins?

According to local experts, it's bad PR, but the loss of a trademarked name would really have little impact on the team.

Also, the Redskins plan to appeal, which means we are years away from a decision. The team can keep the name while appealing. So for now, it's still federally protected.

"It doesn't mean that today I could run out and start printing Redskins t-shirts and not worry about getting a letter from the Redskins saying, 'You're violating our federal trademark rights,' said Chris Cotropia, a law professor at the University of Richmond who specializes in trademarks and patents.

"Two big things is one, they can continue using it--and quite frankly, even if they don't have a trademark, they can use it. Two, they can prevent other people from using it because they still have common law trademark rights."

He says today's decision is more symbolic than an actual step towards changing the name.

"You're here with me today, so it creates a dialog about what does 'Redskins' mean? is it disparaging? And does that cause maybe even a different change in the kind of sentiment about this maybe one way or the other," said Cotropia.

James Gibsons, director of the Intellectual property institute at the University of Richmond, added, "This is bad for the Redskins from a public relations perspective, but does not actually affect the team's trademark rights in a significant way."

The Redskins will likely appeal to the district court in Alexandria. Cotropia also says there's not a lot of case law in this area, so it's hard to predict what a district court or appeals court might do.

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