Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the requested appeal of Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc., the nearly two-decade old trademark case seeking cancellation of the U.S. Trademark Registrations owned by the NFL franchise in the Nation’s Capitol. In doing so, the highest Court in the land, has permitted the laches ruling to stand. Basically, permitting dismissal of the action given a perceived "unreasonable delay" by the Native American Petitioners in bringing the trademark challenge, despite clear language in the Trademark Act permitting such challenges outside the typical five year statute of limitations, and specifically indicating they can be filed "at any time."
My prior involvement in filing the case back in 1992, the victory we all enjoyed in 1999, and my admittedly rather critical coverage of the dismissal of this historic and ground-breaking case may be found here (9/17/09) and here (May 21, 2009).
Although many ironies may be highlighted from this odd conclusion to the Harjo case, certainly one of the most striking ironies is that it took far longer for this case to wind its way through our legal system than the accused delay by Mateo Romero, the youngest of the original Native American Petitioners, led by Suzan Shown Harjo.
Be that as it may, the torch has been passed to a brand new generation of Native American Petitioners, eager to have the case decided on the merits. The "new" case filed by Amanda Blackhorse and others, more than three years ago, was promptly suspended, pending the final outcome in the Harjo case. Now that the Harjo case has concluded, the Blackhorse case will proceed before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the same admininstrative body that found in favor of Harjo’s disparagement claim in 1999.
Moreover, the TTAB appears to have read the news accounts and just today issued an order, indicating that if the parties to the Blackhorse proceeding don’t advise it of the status of the Harjo case within thirty days, it will automatically resume the Blackhorse proceeding and issue a new scheduling order to move the case forward, so stay tuned.
OK, here is my prediction. Some day, I don’t know when, justice will prevail, and some talented branding guru will make a tidy sum re-naming and re-branding this offensive NFL franchise name that could have and should have been re-named long ago.