The decision this past week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rescind federal trademark protections for the Redskins may ultimately tip the balance in the controversy over the 80-year-old name of Washington’s football team.
If so, that would be a shame. Not because there’s insufficient reason to consider the name “disparaging to Native Americans,” as the patent office determined. The problem is that the Redskins case is just the latest example of a federal agency going beyond its brief to inappropriately insert itself in social or political debates.
Few people would have expected the future of the Redskins to be determined by an obscure panel in a relatively small government agency.
Turley ends by saying, “What is needed is a new law returning these agencies to their core regulatory responsibilities and requiring speech neutrality in enforcement. We do not need faceless federal officials to become arbiters of our social controversies. There are valid objections to the Redskins name, but it is a public controversy that demands a public resolution, not a bureaucratic one.”