For more than a century, non-majority groups have protested the use of trademarks comprised of or containing terms referencing the group—albeit for various reasons. Under the 1946 Lanham Act, Congress added a prohibition against registering disparaging trademarks, which could offer protection to non-majority groups targeted by the use of trademarks offensive to members of the group. The prohibition remained relatively unclear, however, and rarely applied in that context until a group of Native Americans petitioned to cancel the Washington NFL team’s trademarks as either scandalous, offensive to the general population, or disparaging, offensive to the referenced group. In clarifying the appropriate test for disparaging, however, the decision makers have overly analogizing the two prohibitions, rendering the disparaging trademark prohibition less effective in protecting non-majority groups from offensive trademarks.
Disparaging Trademarks: Who Matters,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol20/iss2/3