The Supreme Court decided it wants no part of the Redskins case, and Quinn remains victorious over Native American activists who want to change the team’s racially charged moniker. The WSJ Law blog reports:
The Redskins on Monday got a bit of good news from the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined cert filed by Native American activists who claim the Redskins’ team name is so offensive that it does not deserve trademark protection. The ruling essentially lets stand a lower court ruling that the activists waited too long to bring the challenge.
Mmmm … laches.
Regular Above the Law readers know that this case sparked some internal controversy at Quinn Emanuel when a then-associate at the firm took offense to Robert Raskopf’s celebratory lower court victory email.
The associate argued that Quinn was on the wrong side of history, but it appears the firm is on the right side of the law.
The lower court ruled that challenges to the Redskins name are time-barred. SCOTUS saw no reason to look into that issue again. The Washington Post explains:
The lawsuit was filed in 1992, when seven activists challenged a Redskins trademark issued in 1967. They won seven years later in a decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which said the name could be interpreted as offensive to Native Americans. The case is Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc.
Trademark law prohibits registration of a name that “may disparage . . . persons, living or dead, . . . or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”
The team appealed to federal court.
Judges at the district and circuit levels said the activists’ trademark cancellation claim was barred by the doctrine of laches, which serves as a defense against claims that should have been made long ago.
It’s too bad, because with Alito on the Court, this case could have gotten really interesting:
The activists argued that disparaging trademarks can be challenged at any time, citing a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The decision was written by then-judgeSamuel A. Alito Jr., who now sits on the Supreme Court.
Are we really going to make it through this entire case without any judge having to rule on whether or not it is appropriate to put “redskins” on a football helmet? Maybe not. On True/Slant Kashmir Hill has this great nugget from Drinker Biddle — which is representing the Native Americans:
When I wrote about the case for Washingtonian Magazine this summer, Drinker Biddle & Reath partner Philip Mause, who is representing the Native Americans, told me he has another petition regarding the Redskins name pending before the trademark board. It is led by Amanda Blackhorse of the Navajo Nation; Blackhorse and her co-petitioners were in their late teens and twenties when they filed their petition, so the courts won’t be able to dismiss the case based on the time elapsed/age issue.
Drinker Biddle v. Quinn Emanuel, round two, could be coming to a courthouse near you.
High Court Punts on Redskins Dispute [WSJ Law Blog]
Supreme Court refuses to hear Redskins’ naming case [Washington Post]
Washington Redskins name is safe. For now. [True/Slant]
Earlier: Quinn Emanuel Associate Has Reservations About ‘Redskin’ Victory