The Washington Redskins have filed a petition for writ of certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to hear their trademark case along with a review of In re Tam. We’ve previously covered In re Tam and the Redskins trademark cases here on the blog. If you need a refresher on the cases, read more here and here.
As expected, the United States and Patent Trademark Office (“PTO”) filed a writ of certiorari on April 20, 2016, asking the Court to review the In re Tam decision. The PTO’s Lee v. Tam petition frames the issues as whether the disparagement provision is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. For clarity, Lee in the case caption refers to Michelle Lee, Director of the PTO.
The Washington Redskins have also filed a petition for writ of certiorari, seeking to have the two cases consolidated for adjudication by the Court due to the similarity of the issues. Both cases concern the Lanham Act’s disparagement provision, which the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held was an unconstitutional violation of the Free Speech Clause in In re Tam. The Redskins believe that In re Tam was correctly decided and thus, the Petition initially notes that the Redskins do not believe the court should accept certiorari in Lee v. Tam.
Six of the Redskins’ marks were cancelled last year after a federal judge found that the marks were disparaging to Native Americans. The decision upheld the TTAB’s previous cancellations of the marks. However, the cancellations are on hold pending the completion of the appeals process. If the Court accepts certiorari, the Redskins will be allowed to bypass their appeal currently pending in the Fourth Circuit.
Chelsie Spencer is a Senior Associate with the Dallas office of Kennedy Law, PC. She may be reached at 214-716-4345.