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Redskins Trademarks Canceled By U.S. Patent Office

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Protesters stand outside FedEx Field during a Redskins game on Nov. 25, 2013, against the San Francisco 49ers.
Matt Bush/WAMU
Protesters stand outside FedEx Field during a Redskins game on Nov. 25, 2013, against the San Francisco 49ers.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins  in a ruling on Wednesday, saying the team's name is offensive to Native Americans.

"We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered," says the ruling, issued by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in a 2-1 decision.

Federal law explicitly prohibits the registration of trademarks that disparage persons or bring them into "contempt or disrepute."

The decision by the board is similar to one it issued in 1999. That ruling was overturned in 2003 in large part on a technicality because the courts decided that the plaintiffs were too old.

The new case was launched in 2006 by a younger group of Native Americans. A hearing was held in March 2013.

The ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year. News outlets have started banning the use of the team's name and Native American groups have protested games.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said the ruling is another signal that the team should move on from the name. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also called for a change, with 50 Senators asking the NFL to force the Redskins to change the name and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying he won't attend games until the name is changed.

The Redskins can retain their trademark protection during an appeal.

In a statement released today by Bob Raskopf, trademark attorney for the team, says "we are confident we will prevail once again" and that the ruling will be overturned on appeal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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