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Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
565 F.3d 880 (D.C. Cir. 2009)
Pro-Football, Inc. (PFI) (defendant) was the corporate owner of the Washington Redskins football team. PFI registered six trademarks that include the word Redskin. Five of the marks were registered in or prior to 1978, and the most recent one was registered in 1990. The last trademark was for the word Redskinnettes. In 1992, seven Native Americans (plaintiffs) petitioned for cancellation of the registrations, alleging that the term Redskin disparaged Native Americans. One of the plaintiffs, Mateo Romero, was born in 1966. The plaintiffs prevailed before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which cancelled the marks. PFI appealed to the trial court. The trial court granted summary judgment to PFI based on the doctrine of laches and a lack of substantial evidence to show disparagement. The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which reversed and remanded for additional evidence regarding whether Romero’s claim was barred by laches. The former Redskins president, Edward Bennett Williams, died during the eight year period between Romero turning 18 and filing this claim. Williams met with Native American leaders around the time of registration of the marks to discuss their views. PFI significantly expanded merchandising and investment in the trademarks during that eight year period, as well. The trial court determined that Romero’s claim was barred by laches based on economic and trial prejudice. Romero appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Tatel, J.)
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