The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins' trademarks on the basis that the name is "disparaging to Native Americans," dealing team owner Daniel Snyder a public relations blow as he tries to fend off activist groups that want him to change the team name. 

The Trade Mark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office voted 2-1 that the Washington Redskins' trademarks are offensive to the people it references and not the entire United States population, with five Native Americans -- representing four tribes -- having brought the case up against the team in 2006.

"Petitioners have found a preponderance of evidence that a substantial [number] of Native Americans found the term Redskins to be disparaging when used in connection with professional football," the ruling said. "While this may reveal differing opinions with the community, it does not negate the opinions of those who find it disparaging."

The decision affects Washington's team name and past logos but does not include the Redskins' current logo, nor does it force Snyder to change the team name in the near future. The Redskins plan to appeal the decision, but should the team lose its appeals, team trademarks registered between 1967 and 1990 will no longer be protected under federal law.

Mark Conrad, director of the sports business concentration for Fordham University's Gabelli School of Business and a specialist in legal issues revolving around the business of sports, says the ruling will not greatly push the Redskins to change their name.

"The ruling is stayed pending appeal to the courts, and even if the ruling stands, all it says is that the trademark registrations are improper," Conrad said to "The name and designs can still be used, and since they were used for a very long time, there is some protection for them under what is known as 'common law' use. Not as much protection [in terms of damages] but still some protection."

Conrad added that the decision could add political pressure for Snyder to change the name saying that "the days of the Redskins could be numbered," though the team owner has stated that he will never -- "you can use caps" -- change the team name so long as he owns the team.

Without this trademark legal protection, any fan, group or business entity could sell Washington Redskins merchandise without having to pay royalties to the NFL or Washington. According to, the Redskins' brand valuation is estimated to be worth $145 million, 8.4 percent of the team's total estimated valuation.

Since the NFL teams split merchandise royalties (though the Dallas Cowboys have a separate marketing arrangement because they sued the NFL to win rights to make Jerry Jones' local marketing deals, which were not bound to conditions of national deals), the case could dent the league's merchandise revenue slightly, though Jones does not think it will hurt the league's merchandise revenue immensely.

"All owners share the economic benefit of our marks," Jones told USA Today. "To the extent that all owners are not protected as much as we were, it implies that there would be a financial consequence. Certainly, they are impacted. To the degree that it would cause another owner to get into the business of the Redskins, I doubt it. I don't see it being of that consequence economically. I don't see it as having enough economic consequences to create any inertia." 

When contacted by, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy referred all questions to Bob Raskopf, the Redskins trademark attorney, who said in a statement, "this ruling -- which of course we will appeal -- simply addresses the team's federal trademark registrations, and the team will continue to own and be able to protect its marks without the registrations. The registrations will remain effective while the case is on appeal."

The Redskins have been defiant in the face of national pressure to change the name of the team, with critics -- such as President Barack Obama and 50 U.S. senators -- finding the name offensive to Native Americans and demanding a name change.

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, a California-based tribe, recently aired a commercial against Washington's use of the name, while U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, has been very vocal about the Redskins' need to find a new name.

"The Redskins no longer have trademarks. They are gone. Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it's just a matter of time until he is forced to do the right thing and change the name," Sen. Reid said. "Daniel Snyder says it's about tradition. I ask, what tradition? A tradition of racism. That's all that that name leaves in its wake. The writing is on the wall. It's on the wall in giant, blinking, neon lights."