A federal judge seems to think Native Americans offended by the Washington Redskins team name are properly being sued by the NFL franchise.
Judge Gerald Bruce Lee suggested during a hearing Friday that it would be unprecedented to dismiss the team’s lawsuit against five Native Americans who complained about the name to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
A trademark office board decided in June to cancel some of the Redskins’ trademarks, citing federal regulations against protecting words and images that are disparaging or offensive.
The team could have challenged the ruling in appellate court in Washington, but sought help instead in a venue that gives it more options, by going to a trial court to sue the Native Americans who complained in the first place.
The team has used the Redskins name since 1933, and has asked the judge to reverse the trademark board’s removal of protections of six trademarks the team registered between 1967 and 1990. The team argues that the name is not offensive, and that canceling its trademarks would violate its free speech rights and take its property without compensation.