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Today in Trademarks: Is “Nut Sack Double Brown Ale” less offensive than “Washington Redskins”?

Last week, counsel for the Washington Redskins submitted a lengthy brief to the Fourth Circuit that, in part, provided a laundry list of other trademarks that have been registered by the USPTO and were implicitly deemed not to be immoral, scandalous, disparaging or otherwise offensive.  In a parallel but unrelated matter, the owners of the trademark for NUT SACK DOUBLE BROWN ALE – for a beer flavor, naturally – overcame a challenge to their mark and were granted a federal trademark registration.

These two decisions seem incongruous, but are they really?  At the very least, I hope to see an episode of South Park where Cartman wears a Washington Redskins™ jersey while drinking a Nut Sack®-flavored drink.

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The NFL will complain about your Vines (and GIFs)

[originally published on October 13, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

As a sports fan, Monday, October 12, 2015 was a strange and turbulent day.  USC fired Steve Sarkisian one day after asking him to take an administrative leave of absence (cue the employment lawyers).  Steve Spurrier, the head coach of the other USC – South Carolina – suddenly walked away and called it a career in mid-season.  Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott congratulated the Astros on making the American League Championship Series when they were leading 6-2 in the eighth inning, only for the Royals to score five quick runs and turn me into a blubbering mess of a baseball fan.  Someone in the governor’s office forgot about Yogi Berra and “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Yet the craziest sports story of the entire day might be something that happened over social media.  In the mid-afternoon, the Twitter accounts for Deadspin (@Deadspin) and SB Nation’s GIF-based sub account (@SBNationGIF) were suddenly suspended.  The initial reasons were murky, with media reports later suggesting that the National Football League used its influence with Twitter to suspend the accounts.  And why?  Because the Deadspin account and the SBNationGIF account both routinely posted or re-tweeted Vines and GIFs of highlight plays from NFL games. Which are copyrighted works.

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How are DraftKings and FanDuel even Legal in the United States?

[originally published October 6, 2015 on www.law-dlc.com]

If you regularly watch sports or have stumbled across ESPN in the last few months, you are certain to have seen the relentless advertising campaigns by the companies DraftKings and FanDuel.  These advertisements are promoting what is known as “Daily Fantasy Sports” or “DFS” for short.  Fantasy sports, specifically fantasy football, experienced exponential growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, coinciding directly with increased access to the internet and websites that served to process sports stats and information.  Every major sports website now hosts thousands of fantasy leagues year-round, usually for free.  The interest in season-long fantasy sports crested in the latter parts of the last decade, with millions of Americans participating in fantasy leagues every year.  Some of these leagues also allow for the possibility of winning millions of dollars.  Real, actual money.

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Clearing Up a Public Misconception About the “Washington Redskins™”

[originally published September 10, 2015 at www.law-dlc.com]

The federally-registered trademark for the “Washington Redskins” has been under attack since 1992. On June 18, 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) voted to cancel six marks held by the organization on grounds that “Redskins” was disparaging.

This vote was upheld on appeal on July 8, 2015 by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. As of today, the federal registrations for “Washington Redskins” have been cancelled.

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