Thursday, 19 June 2014

Redskins/Patent Office etc

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has withdrawn the  trademark protections of the Washington Redskins.

The effect of the ruling is a bit ironic. It means that any John or Jane Doe can use the logos of the Washington Redskins at will.  In practical terms, the use of "Redskins" is now broadened rather than denied.

The Football ream will of course appeal this governmental ruling.  This means that the ruling is moot for the time being. 

You will be surprised to read that I hope the Washington Redskins organization will prevail in the Courts.

Don't get me wrong.  I know that the use of "Redskins" to promote an American Football team is at the least insensitive, and at the most offensive.

American Indian peoples have a proud heritage. That heritage has been ignored, disparaged, and denigrated by many in the predominate Euro/American culture. 

American Indian peoples have paid with their lives so that the Euro/American culture could assert its dominance.  The use of the word "Redskins" is a throw back to the days when the Declaration of Independence could include this as part of its list of grievances against King George.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
"Merciless Indian Savages" then.  "Redskins" today.  It's all part of the same warp and woof. Both are unacceptable for decent Americans.
So why do I say that  "I hope the Washington Redskins organization will prevail in the Courts."
It's on a very narrow ground. I simply do not believe that the U.S, Patent and Trademark Office should be a body which determines social policy.
Given that permission  the  U.S, Patent and Trademark Office could one day rule against a trademark which is dear to my liberal heart (or to the hearts of my conservative friends).
Such social policy should be  determined in the Courts of Law, or in the Court of Public Opinion. -  not by a Quasi-Governmental bureaucracy.
There are better ways of dealing with logos and trademarks which are thoughtless or offensive.
For example  -  this used to be the logo of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Came the time when many of the residents of Massachusetts realized that the symbol of a "Pilgrim's Hat bisected by an "Indian" arrow" was inaccurate, unhistorical,  and untenable.
To be honest when I moved from England to Massachusetts in 1976, like many residents of the Commonwealth,   I had no idea or conception that the MassPike logo was so horribly offensive.  But once "the light dawned"  I understood that it must go. 
The decisions to nix it was not made by the courts of law, or by the Patent Office. 
We in Massachusetts ditched it by reasonable and popular acclaim.
Similarly (in the U.K),  the logo for Roberson's Jam was the "Golliwog"
I grew up thinking that the Golliwog was a rather silly symbol.  But as a kid I had no idea of its racist and demeaning attributes.
Came the time when the Robertson's Jam Company decided (under pressure from an anti-colonial customer base) decided to drop the Golliwog as a Logo.  The company knew that a symbol had once been a bit silly and utterly demeaning to Black Brits had to go.
It was a business decision.
Better that than an arbitrary ruling from some semi-anonymous governmental body.
I have no truck with the name Washington Redkins for a Football Club, or with the old Mass Pike symbol, or with the Robertson's Golly.
I think that they are ignorant, or silly, or even dangerous.
My only "beef" is with the  clumsy bureaucrats at the  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Their hearts are in the right place,  but I am not sure that they are the best folks to create social policy.

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