News & Politics

Federal Trademark Board Says “Redskins” Is a Derogatory Word, for Pork Rinds

The board is also reviewing the word as it pertains to the NFL team of the same name.

Hot-button legal issue. Photograph via Shutterstock.

The federal body that oversees trademarks ruled on Monday that the term “Redskins” is insulting, insofar as it pertains to fatty snack foods. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board rejected an application for “Redskins Hog Rinds,” writing in a letter that the name contains a “derogatory slang term” for Native Americans.

“Registration is refused because the applied-for mark Redskins Hog Rinds consists of or includes matter which may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols,” the December 29 letter reads.

But pork rinds are not the only case the trademark board has before it concerning the questionable word. It is currently deliberating a case brought by a group of Native American activists who are seeking to strip the Washington NFL franchise of its trademark for the same reason the snack food was denied its desired name. Trademark judges heard oral arguments last March, and the attorney representing the plaintiffs says the pork rind decision bodes well for the case against the football team.

“We’ve very encouraged by this decision by the trademark office, and we look forward to getting a ruling in our case,” Jesse Witten, a partner at Drinker Biddle, told the Washington Post.

The trademark board can’t force the team to change its name, but a ruling for the plaintiffs would mean the team would no longer be protected against businesses and individuals from selling unlicensed merchandise that features its name. The trademark application for the pork rinds was filed on behalf of a Capitol Heights man, and the law firm representing him told the Post that in that context, “Redskins” could be ambiguous because there are food products that contain the word in reference to nuts or potatoes.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.