As was widely expected, the NFL team based in Washington DC, formerly using the “Redskins” as their team name, will be renaming themselves after years of people pointing out that the name is racist, and the team being so obnoxious that it has literally sued native Americans who had previously sought to cancel the team’s trademark. Either way, what finally got the Dan Snyder-owned team to ditch the name was… money, of course. The biggest sponsors of the team began to threaten to pull support, and that finally convinced Snyder to do something he should have done a long time ago.
Of course, the story that many are focusing on following the official announcement to find a new name is… the fact that some dude has been busy filing trademark applications on a bunch of possible replacement names.
Why don't the Redskins have a new nickname planned yet? Probably because some realtor in Alexandria beat them to the punch and trademarked every single possible new Redskins nickname. Well, played sir. pic.twitter.com/0an4apXaZy
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) July 13, 2020
And if you don’t understand trademark law, that might sound legit, except that none of this is getting in the way of the team picking a new name. We’ve talked in the past about how people always try to rush in and trademark stuff in hopes of getting some crazy payday, but that’s not how trademark law works. You can apply for any trademark (though the costs will add up) but you’re unlikely to get it unless you have actual plans to use it in commerce and you’re not just registering it as a troll.
To his credit, Philip Martin McCauley at least claims that he understands all this and has even set up a website (which I’m not linking to) which offers merchandise featuring the logos of his totally fake Washington DC football team names. That at least gives him a modicum more defensibility than your everyday trademark troll.
United States law requires that the holder of a trademark actually use the term in question.
McCaulay is aware of the provision, which is why he’s spent thousands of dollars creating team merchandise to back up his claims.
In doing so, he said he’s no ordinary trademark squatter, a term with negative connotation used in similar situations.
“A squatter reserves a name with no intention to use it,” McCaulay said. “I went to the extreme of buying a lot of merchandise, making it my brand, and selling it.”
But the idea that this will, in any way, prevent the actual football team from choosing a name it likes is pretty silly. Perhaps the team would pay off McCauley just to avoid the hassle, but it won’t be because of any legitimate claim to the trademark — just a pure nuisance fee to avoid bad press and wasteful litigation. And, to be honest, Dan Snyder has never struck me as someone who cares much about avoiding bad press or wasteful litigation.