The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the Washington Redskins trademark registration, an extremely rare move the office said it made because the name is offensive to Native Americans.
Trademarks that disparage or belittle other groups are not permited under federal law. The ruling Wednesday pertains to six different trademarks containing the word “Redskin.”
Native American groups have been fighting the football team, its owners and sponsors for decades to change the name.
The ability of a distributed democratic approach to route around the damage of hierarchical authoritarians is one of its strength. Authoritarians can be very strong and focussed – their strength – which gives them early success against winds of change.
Like a a mighty tree, if the winds change rapidly, buffeting them hard from different directions, along with massive amounts of rain and a lightening bolt or two,, the oak tree will fall.
One distributed way to shift the wind and deal with the Washington team is for people simply not go to the games.
But today, not only was there a shift in the wind but a lightening bolt as well. And it did not use a tool of distributed democracy against the authoritarians.
It used one of hierarchical authoritarian’s own tools against itself – government bureaucracy. Not a mob with pitchforks and torches but a nice long legal document.
In America, our government is usually a direct reflection of how the people balance distributed democracy and hierarchical authority.
We as a society have made the decision that derogatory names cannot gain trademark protection. It has been incorporated into the authoritative power of the government.
That government – which can provide trademark protection – has now removed that protection from the Washington team, and the NFL. The ability of that trademark to generate large amounts of money for them is now pretty damaged.
This is a very big lightening bolt. This will hit the relevant parties in the pocket book but does not take away their First Amendment rights. They can name themselves what ever they want.
But we, as a society have determined that we will not protect that name with the authority of the government.