The “Washington Commanders” trademark refused by the USPTO: what’s next for the franchise?

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It’s been a seismic offseason for Washington commanders. Most notably, the franchise is set to have a new owner with Josh Harris’ band. reach an agreement to buy the team for $6.05 billion. Once the other NFL owners approve the sale, this new regime could face a developing situation regarding the team’s name. The United States Patent and Trademark Office refused the franchise application to trademark the “Washington Commanders” moniker.

Specifically, the application was denied for two reasons. The first was due to the “likelihood of confusion” with the “Commanders’ Classic” – an annual college football game between the Air Force and Army – already filed. The other stems from a pending request from Martin McCaulay, a DC-area man who filed trademarks while trying to guess the team’s new name. The “Washington Space Commanders” and the “Washington Wolf Commanders” are two of many trademark applications sent by McCaulay who contributed to this refusal for the NFL franchise.

Washington began its renaming process in July 2020 when it decided to retire the “Redskins” moniker, which had been associated with the team since 1933. At that time, the franchise was called “The Washington Football Team” for two seasons. (2020-2021) as a backup until they decide on a permanent nickname. It happened in February 2022 when they unveiled the nickname “Commanders”.

What shall we do now? As trademark attorney Josh Gerben notes, the team could file a response to the USPTO arguing that they are unlikely to be confused with the “Commanders’ Classic” game. They could also try to buy out the rights to the game or sign a coexistence agreement. With McCaulay, he told the Washington Post in July 2020 that he would hand over any brands the team might need for free.

Of course, we’ll now have to see if McCaulay stands by those comments now that the rubber has hit the road on this issue.

From the Commanders’ perspective, they seem confident that they will be able to get a mark for the nickname.

“The recent non-final action by the Trademark Office is an ordinary step in the standard trademark registration process,” a team spokesperson told Pro Football Talk. “We will respond to the action of the Trademark Office and are confident that our registration will be granted. In particular, there is no likelihood of confusion between our COMMANDERS marks and the COMMANDERS’ CLASSIC football game between the military and the “Air Force. We don’t think any trademark registrations obtained by squatters who tried to capitalize on the Club’s renaming should stand in the way of our registrations.”

Thus, it seems that all roads will lead commanders to obtain the desired trademark. That said, it would be a fascinating turn of events if this situation opened the door for this new group of owners to change their name again if they aren’t thrilled with the “Commanders” moniker.

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