–Dan Kelly, Attorney

Last week, the North Dakota Supreme Court issued an opinion in a suit relating to the University of North Dakota’s use of the name FIGHTING SIOUX and related imagery.  This opinion was the latest installment in a long-running matter, the history of which I will not get into in detail–the opinion recites

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

Back in May, I wrote a piece entitled “Re-Branding Madness in Washington” Overlooks Obvious: The Washington Redskins,” discussing the trademark cancellation action that I filed on behalf of seven prominent Native American leaders back in September 1992 (Harjo et al v. Pro-Football, Inc.), and calling for the football team to “hire a branding 

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A picture can say a thousand words; so does a face. The same is probably true of non-verbal logos, including the several federally-registered “Chief Wahoo” logos, shown above (all apparently still in use by the “Cleveland Indians” professional baseball team, according to their latest trademark filings).

So, what do they say to you?

My take? I can think of quite a few words to describe them, but none includes the word “honor,” as is often the claim made by those in favor of keeping Native American mascots.

From my perspective, “Chief Wahoo” is the non-verbal equivalent of the Redskins racial slur that I blogged about last week.

Last month I blogged about Non-Verbal Logos That Can Stand Alone, and while “Wahoo” certainly can “stand alone” as a non-verbal logo, unlike the famous Nike Swoosh and McDonalds Golden Arches, “Wahoo” should simply “stand alone” in the corner of a dark closet with the door shut and locked.


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Re-branding occurs all the time.

Re-branding occurs in business. Remember when Bell Atlantic became Verizon? Andersen Consulting became Accenture? How about when Philip Morris became Altria?

Re-branding occurs in politics too. Just days ago, Judson Berger discussed a kind of “re-branding madness” consuming Washington, D.C. right now: “Terrorist attack is out. — ‘man caused disaster’ is in.” Our friends at Catchword Branding had a lot of fun with the political re-branding of Swine Flu.

Re-branding even occurs in the world of professional sports. Remember when the NBA franchise Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards in 1997 out of concern that the Bullets name of some twenty-three years (1974-1997) had acquired “violent overtones”.  How about the recent re-branding from the Seattle Supersonics to the Oklahoma City Thunder? Even the NFL has decided to recognize Cincinnati Bengal Chad Johnson’s re-branding to Ocho Cinco.

Re-branding changes, according to Wikipedia, are “usually in an attempt to distance [the brand] from certain negative connotations of the previous branding.” So, given the widespread meaning and understanding of “redskin” as “offensive slang” and that it is “used as a disparaging term for a Native American,” given the pain the term has caused, and given that the team’s helmets sport a Native American profile and not a certain variety of spud on them, why won’t the Washington Redskins get on the re-branding bandwagon in our nation’s capital? After all, even one of the attorneys at the same law firm hired by the team apparently has spoken out, read about the details here.


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