While the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback drama has stolen most of the headlines, the NFC North club isn’t the only NFL franchise with an offseason problem. The Washington Football Team’s latest issue, however, is a bit less conventional than a potential holdout.
As football fans will remember, Dan Snyder recently rebranded his franchise as the Washington Football Team. While that name has actually received a decent reception, there’s now a problem, at least from the business perspective. The organization’s attempt to trademark their name for clothing-related purposes has been denied, leaving Snyder and company in an awkward situation.
Dan Snyder finally bit the bullet and changed his club’s name to the Washington Football Team
For years, Washington’s name and logo were simply an unpleasant reality of watching NFL football. In 2020, however, everything changed.
After years of insisting that he wouldn’t change his franchise’s name, Snyder finally changed his tune in the face of massive commercial pressure. The club rebranded as the Washington Football Team, at least temporarily, and hit the field with numbers, rather than a logo, on their helmets.
While the club is theoretically working on finding a long-term name that sounds like less of a placeholder, it’s possible that the Washington Football Team is here to stay. In 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that the club’s current title could be a long-term option.
“Sure, it’s possible!” Snyder told the paper via email. “If the Washington Football Team name catches on and our fans embrace it, then we would be happy to have it as our permanent name. I think we have developed a very classy retro look and feel.”
That potential future, though, may have already hit a snag.
Encountering a potentially pricey trademark issue
For a professional sports franchise, selling jerseys, t-shirts, and other merchandise is a key part of their business. The Washington Football Team, however, has already encountered a potential snag on that front.
As reported by Darren Rovell of the Action Network, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office “issued a refusal of the team’s attempt to trademark the name on clothing. The office made the decision based on the likelihood of confusion with a man who successfully trademarked Washington Football Club for clothing and the fact that the name alone is geographically descriptive.”
The trademark, it seems, already belongs to “a Virginia realtor named Phillip McCauley, [who] filed to trademark every name imaginable and made and sold clothing in 2015 to satisfy use in commerce provisions.”
As you might assume, the easiest solution is for the franchise and McCauley to work out an arrangement. Such a deal, however, would presumably require Snyder to pay a pretty penny. Rovell did speak to a trademark attorney, though, who also suggested that the Washington Football Team could potentially make a case for the Patent and Trademark Office to cancel McCauley’s trademark.
Either way, the situation isn’t ideal for the NFL club.
The Washington Football Team will probably be facing these issues for the next few years
While dealing with a trademark situation isn’t the most fun way to spend an offseason, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the Washington Football Team. For better or worse, just about everything has its price, and NFL franchises essentially print money. Regardless of what happens in this situation, though, the club will probably have to deal with similar issues in the coming years.
As explained in a 2015 Washington Post story, McCauley doesn’t only hold the trademark for “Washington Football Team.” He snapped up the rights to countless potential identities, ranging from Washington Sharks to the Washington Americans. While some of those team names border on the absurd, others, like the Red-Tailed Hawks or the Generals, have entered the conversation as potential monikers for the NFL franchise. The Washington Redtails, another possible identity, is also trademarked by a different group.
Without knowing exactly what the future holds, it seems like there’s a decent chance that Snyder and company will have to play ball with someone to obtain their trademark.
Given Washington’s reputation as a famously dysfunctional franchise, failing to secure a trademark for their own name, unfortunately, seems to be par for the course. Given the implications of their previous identity, though, the hassle and potential payments are more than worth it.