Patent Tyranny: The Gravity of the Redskin Trademark Cancellation

Imagine receiving a letter from your local police department informing you that your person and property will no longer be afforded their protection. Perhaps your religious views have been deemed offensive, or you contributed to the wrong political campaign last year, or maybe the chief just doesn’t like the cut of your jib. Regardless, no one will be responding to your 911 calls. Your property will not be protected. Crimes against you will no longer merit a response. And any attempt to defend yourself will be regarded as criminal aggression.

In essence, that’s what the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has just told the Washington Redskins. As you’ve likely read by now, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board recently issued a ruling canceling the team’s trademark under the rationalization that it proves “disparaging” to Native Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid enthusiastically supports the move. Washington D.C.’s delegate to Congress has declared the development a “historic” and “inevitable” victory.

The gravity of this moment cannot be overstated and may be easily lost in pontification over racial sensitivity and the relative importance of a sport’s mascot. This is not about football. It’s not about race. It’s not even about political correctness anymore. This is about whether we live under the rule of law. Or, to put it more directly, whether we live under tyranny.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast on this topic and more. 11:01 minutes long; 10.57 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

Tyranny? In reference to a patent case? You bet.

What would you call it if you received that letter from the police? You still owe them taxes. You still have to answer to their commands. You just can’t expect their protection or the recognition of your rights. We’re witnessing the establishment of a second class of citizen, a lesser class whose rights shall go unprotected. Is that not infinitely more offensive than any name?

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder deserves full support in his fight against this egregious action. Whether you believe the team name to be disparaging or not is wholly beside the point. This is no longer about that. Ironically, it's about whether individuals in the United States are afforded equal treatment under the law. If our rights are contingent upon not offending others, then we have no rights.