Several Major Companies May Be Affected By Redskins Trademark Cancellation
Wednesday morning, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled in favor of five Native Americans in the “Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc." decision, canceling the trademark of the name of the Washington Redskins.
Washington will be able to appeal this decision, which would give them temporary retainment of the trademark rights. However, if the appeal fails, there could be an overreaching market effect on the team’s major sponsors.
A similar situation occurred for the Redskins in 1999 -- but the team won an appeal based on the argument that the suit against the team’s trademark, which was registered in the 1960’s, was filed far too late to be taken seriously. That same claim may not work now, as the sentiment across the nation has drastically swayed towards the team changing their controversial name.
In May of 2013, team owner Daniel Snyder assured USA today that he would “NEVER, you can use caps," change the team's name.
A Retail Opportunity
Before the 2013 season, Nike (NYSE: NKE) paid $1.1 billion to clothe the players and fans of the NFL for five years, closing the door on their competitors for the lion's share of NFL retail revenue. The Redskins are currently the third most valuable team in the NFL, with an assumed value of $1.7 billion. They also averaged over 77,000 fans at each home game in the 2013 season.
Without a trademark on the logo and team name, companies may be able to hop in and reap huge profits in the retail space. Firms like Adidas (OTC: ADDYY) and Under Armour (NYSE: UA) may be able to sneak around Nike’s big money contact with the NFL and add some competition to the retail space for the high paying fans.
Also, beer companies could swoop in and steal the thunder from Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD), and start printing Redskins logos on cans and other promotional materials. Molson Coors Brewing Company (NYSE: TAP), Heineken (OTC: HEINY) or other breweries could also take advantage of the opportunity this fall.
Will The Name truly NEVER change?
In the eyes of many fans and pundits, the only way the Redskins name will change is if the opinions of the NFL’s major sponsors move to favor the team abandoning its “historic name”. As of now, Washington truly does not have any reason to change the name, considering the Redskins are a popular team with an established brand. So what could lead the charge in changing the corporate (sponsor) culture in the NFL?
In the Redskins' case, the corporation that could cause the biggest uproar is FedEx (NYSE: FDX). FedEx just might be the largest team sponsor, with the team playing at “FedEx Field” in Landover, Maryland. But as reported by Mother Jones, FedEx believes their “sponsorship of FedEx Field continues to be in the best interests of FedEx and its stockholders," hinting that they do not plan to get involved in this intercultural battle anytime soon.
The same goes for Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), where a company spokesperson rerouted questions on the matter to officials from the NFL. “We do not play a role in decisions regarding NFL trademarks, the spokesperson noted. "Your questions can be better addressed by the team and the NFL."
Currently, there are no companies that have stepped up and made a statement in favor of the name change, but if one comes, it could change the dynamic of the argument.
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