RICHMOND, Va. – The ACLU of Virginia, the ACLU of the National Capitol Area and the national ACLU today filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the cancellation of the Washington National Football League team’s trademarks on the grounds they are “disparaging.”
“The ACLU agrees that the Washington team’s name and trademarks are disparaging to Native Americans, and we have made clear that we believe that the team should change its name and discontinue use of its current trademarks,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “At the same time, however, we believe that government is prohibited by the First Amendment from denying a trademark on that basis.”
The brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit along with the ACLU national organization and the Nation’s Capital affiliate, argues that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s cancellation last year of six trademarks for the team name was unconstitutional. The brief argues that the trademark office’s decision to cancel the Washington team’s trademarks violated the team’s free speech rights because it discriminates against a particular point of view, places a condition on the valuable benefits of trademark registration, and is arbitrary and will lead to arbitrary enforcement.
The ACLU of Virginia filed a similar brief in the team’s original case in U.S. District Court in March. That court ruled against the team in July.