U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejects first application for Washington Football Team trademark

Last year, Washington dumped its controversial nickname, adopting Washington Football Team instead. At a time when consideration has been given to making that non-name the permanent name of the team, a decision from the federal agency with jurisdiction over these matters dealt the franchise a setback.

Via Sam Fortier of the Washington Post, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has refused the franchise’s request for trademark protection of the Washington Football Team name. The agency concluded that the name refers to a geographic area that is too generic, and that the notorious trademark squatter Martin McCaulay already has submitted an application for the name. (The first conclusion seemingly would invalidate McCaulay’s claim, too.)

It’s only the beginning not the end, and the process will continue. And the outcome of the process has no relevance to whether the team can use the name. The only question is whether the name can be protected for marketing purposes.

That’s more than enough to push the team toward a different name. Indeed, the team faced an extended attack on the trademark rights of its prior name, under the notion that, if the trademark rights were scrapped and anyone/everyone could sell merchandise bearing the name, the team would abandon it.

Thus, if WFT ultimately can’t be legally protected, the team will find a name that can be protected. Other than the one they abandoned last year, presumably.