U.S. Department of Justice intervenes in Redskins trademark dispute

The government has stepped in concerning the Washington Redskins name

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday it would intervene in the ongoing trademark dispute over the name of the Washington Redskins.

The government will defend the constitutionality of the Lanham Act, which was cited as the reason six uses of ''Redskins'' were canceled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June 2014, according to a statement from the Justice Department.

The Lanham Act allows for trademarks to be canceled or rejected if the name or term is “disparaging or falsely suggests a connection with persons living or dead, institutions, beliefs or national symbols,” according to the statement.

The dispute began in 2006 when a group of five Native Americans fought for the cancellation of the team’s trademark, stating the name had a negative connotation for their people. Trademark officials agreed.

In August of last year, the team sued the group to have the ruling reversed, claiming, in part, the Lanham Act infringes on free speech, according to the Justice Department.

The government disagrees.

“The Department of Justice is dedicated to defending the constitutionality of the important statute ensuring that trademark issues involving disparaging and derogatory language are dealt with fairly,” Joyce Branda, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Division, said in the statement.

Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder has said on numerous occasions he has no intention of changing the name.

Attempts to reach the team for comment were unsuccessful. 

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