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Washington Commanders trademark gets denied. Will team need a new name?

5/25/2023 12:20:34 PM
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The Washington Commanders are in the process of being sold, but potential buyer Josh Harris could already have his first problem as the new owner and that is the team's name, Jordan Mendoza of USA Today reports.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the trademark application for the Commanders on Thursday, possibly putting the team's new nickname in jeopardy after one season.

Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney based in Washington D.C., said it's rare for a professional sports team to apply for new trademarks in a world where trademarks are being filed more than ever before, but he wasn't surprised by the USPTO's action.

"They're trying to get a trademark registered on a single word like Commanders for the name of a sports team. That also comes with all the merch that goes along with that, and there's some initial issues the PTO cited," Gerben said.

The trademarks were denied because of the existence of a trademark for "Commanders’ Classic" and prior applications involving the "Commanders" name, according to USPTO documents.

With the "Commanders' Classic," the USPTO cited it "likelihood of confusion" because Commanders' Classic is used as the name of the annual college football game between Army and Air Force, most recently played at Globe Life Field in Texas in 2022.

The second reason is because of "prior-filed applications" involving a longtime Washington fan in the D.C. area. Martin McCaulay, filed for the trademark "Washington Wolf Commanders" and "Washington Space Commanders" in August 2021, which "precede applicant’s filing date."

Without the registered trademark, Gerben said an issue Washington could have trouble trying to take down unlicensed merchandise from second-party dealers like on Amazon, Etsy and eBay.

"The Commanders may find it more difficult, if not impossible, to do that type of enforcement, that could ultimately lead to more unlicensed goods being sold, which in turn could mean less revenue for the team and less profit sharing," Gerben said.

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