Some Laches Getting Down to the `Skins.

The D.C. Circuit has affirmed the ruling that laches bars Native Americans claim of disparagement by the use of the mark “Washington Redskins.” 2009 WL 1350607.

It took only from 1992 until 5/15/09 to reach that issue. What threshold prejudice was there in the time that passed from registration of the mark, in 1967, up to the time of the cancellation proceeding? The death of Edward Bennett Williams, who was the pater familias of the Redskins’ football franchise. It was claimed that Williams, the founder of Williams & Connolly, had met with Native American leaders to hear their views on registration of the trademark. There too was economic prejudice since during the delay, the team had invested heavily in branding and merchandising the Washington Redskins, e.g., Sonny J. and Billy the Kid jerseys.

There was, however, the closing question of disparagment by the 1990 registration of “The Redskinettes,” and the concomitantly shorter 29-month delay in complaining about that. Dismissing the claim against the “Redskins” was sauce for gander, and so, good enough to goose the Redskinettes’ claim.