As anticipated, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("TTAB") decision of June 2014 cancelling six trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins team was appealed by Pro Football, Inc. In August 2014, Pro Football, Inc. filed a lawsuit in federal court against the five Native Americans involved in pursuing the TTAB cancellation in an effort to try to overturn the TTAB's holding that the term “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans and thus is not eligible for trademark registration under the federal Lanham Act. Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act prohibits protection for terms that “may disparage” or bring people into contempt or disrepute. 15 USC §1052; TMEP §1203. On July 8, 2015, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled against Pro Football, Inc., affirming the TTAB's ruling that the REDSKINS marks do disparage Native Americans and that such a decision is not unconstitutional.
Well-known musicians and other entertainers often identify opportunities for innovation in their industry and are able to obtain patent protection for such inventions. Some obtain patent protection for improvements to musical instruments or to new approaches to their craft. Here we highlight three well known performers who were each granted one or more patents.
We often hear about Tommy John surgery for baseball players, and it may be becoming more commonplace. For example, several pitchers for the New York Yankees have undergone the procedure in recent years. In general, Tommy John surgery is a medical procedure to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the medial elbow. Before the procedure was developed, the injury was considered career-ending. These days, talented pitchers who undergo the surgery often become top flight pitchers once again.
As the surgery has become more commonplace, so too have patents and patent applications referencing the surgery or the injury it was designed to treat. Various types of businesses have been able to identify opportunities related to UCL tears and surgical repair of the injury, many of which are ancillary to the surgery.
In a 2-1 ruling last Wednesday, June 18, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) resolved an opposition proceeding in favor of five Native American plaintiffs who sought to cancel six trademark registrations that contain the word REDSKINS and are owned by Pro Football, Inc., the owners of the National Football League’s Washington, D.C. team.
Professional athletes spend considerable time working with sports equipment. Baseball players, for example, use different types of shoes, various protective equipment (such as helmets), devices to block the sun (such as bills of hats), and devices to otherwise improve performance (such as batting gloves to better grip a bat). In part because of the time they spend using such equipment, and the time they spend on a field or court in front of a large crowd, not to mention the impact equipment can have on their athletic careers, professional athletes can recognize the desire for improved equipment to meet a need and can envision such improvements. In at least a few situations, professional athletes have conceived of new ideas and have applied for and received patent protection for their inventions.
The Sports, Arts and Entertainment Group at Garvey Schubert Barer provides full service legal representation on sports, entertainment and business matters, including handling transactions related to brand management, licensing, joint ventures, venture capital, private equity, technology, the Internet and new media.