That Football Team In DC

Emotions run high whenever there’s a ruling about the Redskins’ trademarks. It’s a touchy issue, but the legal question is straightforward:

Did a substantial composite of Native Americans find the Redskins’ registrations disparaging when they were granted?

That’s it. That’s all the courts care about. Here are some questions people find interesting:

  1. Should the US government refuse to register and deregister disparaging trademarks as it has since 1946?
  2. Are all Native Americans offended?
  3. Should Native Americans be offended?

Those may be interesting questions, but they’re irrelevant to the legal question, which is not anywhere near as philosophical.

Here’s what the court had to consider when making its decision: A resolution of a body representing about one-third of Native Americans saying that the Redskins registrations are disparaging and were disparaging on the day they were issued, against a handful of individual Native Americans saying that they, personally, do not find the marks disparaging.

Pretty easy to conclude that a substantial composite of Native Americans found the trademarks disparaging at the time of issue.

The Redskins can go right on calling themselves the Redskins, playing football, selling T-shirts and tickets, and wearing helmets. The government won’t stand in the way of them doing something a substantial composite of Native Americans find disparaging, because we all have the constitutional right to be offensive. But that doesn’t mean the government is required to help them offend by granting them additional legal rights.

That makes sense to me.

If Your Trademark Sucks, Blame the Customer

You’re starting a business. A business where image matters. A lot. Should you pick a trademark that helps you build the image you’re trying to create?

For those of you playing at home, the answer is coming up on your screen:


Because then you won’t have to run an ad campaign that’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but is actually condescending and, well, stupid. Like DressBarn’s ad campaign that plastered the NY subway system in October of 2015.

When DressBarn® started it was probably trying to connote “great clothes at lower prices.” Maybe the trademark was funny, ironic, and timely then, but it doesn’t seem to be working for them now, which is why they have an ad campaign that says:

“We picked a trademark that communicates the wrong message. We hope you’ll shop here anyway.”

Judging from the ad, I’m guessing its marketing research showed that its brand is actually driving customers away. Instead of creating a valuable asset out of nothing, DressBarn created a liability that it now has to overcome just to get back to zero.

Isn’t the point of a trademark to bring customers in?


I wonder if DressBarn and Radio Shack used the same marketing agency.