Amicus Briefs in Pro-Football v. Blackhorse (4th Cir.)

59 Brief of Amici Curiae Native American Organizations in Support of Appellees

60 Brief of the Navajo Nation as Amicus Curiae in Support of Defendants-Appellees

61 Brief of Amici Curiae Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, National Native American Bar Association, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Native Hawaiian Bar Association, and California Indian Law Association in Support of Defendants-Appellees and Affirmance

Link to previous postings in the trademark case here.

Jasmine Abdel-Khalik on Disparaging Trademarks

Jasmine Abdel-Khalik has posted “Disparaging Trademarks: Who Matters,” published in the Michigan Journal of Race & Law. Here is the abstract:

For more than a century, non-majority groups have protested the use of trademarks comprised of or containing terms referencing the group — albeit for various reasons. For those trademarks that are offensive to targeted groups, some may argue that the market will solve. In other words, some may assume that purchasers in the marketplace will respect the objection, there will be insufficient purchases of the product under the mark, and the mark will disappear. However, objections raised by smaller populations in the United States often fall on deaf ears, and the marks continue to be used in the marketplace. The Washington NFL football team trademarks are an example.

Under the 1946 Lanham Act, Congress added a prohibition against registering disparaging trademarks, which could offer protection to non-majority groups targeted by the use of trademarks offensive to members of the group. The prohibition remained relatively unclear, however, and relatively rarely applied in that context until a group of Native Americans petitioned to cancel the Washington NFL team’s trademarks as either scandalous (meaning offensive to the general population) or disparaging (meaning offensive to the referenced group). In clarifying the appropriate test for disparaging, however, the decision makers have overly analogizing the two prohibitions, rendering the disparaging registration prohibition less effective in protecting non-majority groups from offensive trademarks.

This Article seeks to clarify the history, purpose, and utilization of the disparaging registration prohibition. In so doing, the Article also seeks to detangle the scandalous and disparaging registration prohibitions and refocus the disparaging registration prohibition on a broader and necessary purpose, which is to protect non-majority voices from the numerous harms caused by stereotyping and by rendering painful terms commonplace but no less painful.

Angela Riley & Kristen Carpenter on a Theory of Indian Cultural Appropriation

Angela Riley and Kristen Carpenter have posted “Owning Red: A Theory of Indian (Cultural) Appropriation,” forthcoming in the Texas Law Review, on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

In a number of recent controversies, from sports teams’ use of Indian mascots to the federal government’s desecration of sacred sites, American Indians have lodged charges of “cultural appropriation” or the unauthorized use by members of one group the cultural expressions and resources of another. While these and other incidents are currently in the headlines, American Indians often experience these claims within an historical and continuing experience of dispossession. For hundreds of years, the U.S. legal system has sanctioned the taking and destruction of Indian lands and artifacts, bodies and religions, identities and beliefs, all toward the project of conquest and colonization. Indian resources have been devalued by the law and made available for non-Indians to use of their own purposes. Seeking redresses for the losses caused by these actions, tribes have brought claims under a variety of laws, from trademark and copyright, to the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment, and some have been more successful than others. As a matter of property law, courts have compensated – albeit incompletely – the taking of certain Indian lands and has also come to recognize tribal interests in human remains, gravesites, and associated artifacts. When it comes to intangible property, however, the situation is more complicated. It is difficult for legal decision-makers and scholars alike to understand why Indian tribes should be able to regulate the use of Indian names, symbols, and expressions. Indeed, non-Indians often claim interests, sounding in free speech and the public domain, in the very same resources. To advance understanding of this contested area of law, this Article situates intangible cultural property claims in a larger history of the legal dispossession of Indian property – a phenomenon we call “Indian appropriation.” It then evaluates these claims vis à vis prevailing legal doctrine, and offers a normative view of solutions, both legal and extralegal.

Highly, highly recommended! I had a chance to review a draft of this paper and Profs. Riley and Carpenter are changing the way Indian law scholars and property law scholars think about cultural property. A terrific contribution.

Letter(S) to the Editor Regarding ICWA in the Washington Post


Bolstering accountability of the U.S. justice system and providing regulations for its interaction with Indian child-welfare cases secures the safety, health and well-being of Indian children and their tribal nations. The act is a public-health policy that prompts prevention-based measures to restore wellness for Indian children and their families. A sharp focus on the legal status of native children as citizens of self-determining tribal nations is fundamental. Indian children possess an inherent political status that predates the United States, a reality supported by centuries of U.S. law and policy.

Edited to add Senator Dorgan’s letter in the WaPo as well. Here:

When we talk about “blood-stained” laws, we should talk about the history of the treatment of Native Americans: laws of genocide, sterilization, forced removal and assimilation; compulsory boarding schools; underfunding of critical health care; and a trail of broken promises.

These were written in response to a particularly egregious and racist syndicated column by George Will we did not post.

On Friday he put up a second column about the Washington football team. If you want to know what he’s saying, given that his columns are syndicated and run nationwide, here are links to them that don’t boost them on a google search:

Anti-ICWA Column

Name of Washington Football Team Column

Federal Court Orders Cancellation of Washington Football Team’s Trademarks Registration

Here are the materials in Pro-Football, Inc. v. Blackhorse (E.D. Va.):

53 DCT Order on Briefing Schedule

56 Pro-Football Motion for Summary J on Constitutional Claims

71 Blackhorse Motion for Partial Summary J

100 Pro-Football Cross Motion

106 Blackhorse Second Motion for Partial Summary J

109 US Motion for Summary J

118 Blackhorse Reply in Support of 71

119 Pro-Football Reply in Support of 56

126 Blackhorse Reply in Support of 106

127 US Reply in Support of 109

128 Pro-Football Reply in Support of 100

161 DCT Order

Prior posts here, here, here, here, and here.

TTAB materials here.

The Commerce Clause Argument against the Washington Football Team’s Nickname

Here is “Racial Slurs Shouldn’t Be Trademarked:The Washington football team’s name is an obstacle for interstate commerce,” by Robert Tsai and Christine Haight Farley.

An excerpt:

But one argument the DOJ makes only tepidly deserves far greater emphasis: In regulating commerce, Congress has the power—and perhaps even an obligation—to confront pervasive forms of inequality. As the DOJ explains, trademark law “prevents a mistaken perception of official endorsement of insult and calumny.” Yet the power to deny state approval goes further than that: It implicates the very idea of democratic self-governance. Disparaging marks can foster corrosive cultural stereotypes on the basis of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. Left entirely unregulated, the market would become the engine for perpetuating, and even entrenching, illiberal values.