Washington Redskins and the removal of trade marks

Last week, Ireland became the first country in the European Union to pass a law requiring the removal of trade marks from product packaging. The Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014  was passed by the Irish Parliament without a vote. Tobacco companies have until May 2017 to remove all existing packaging from sale. There is talk that one or more of the tobacco companies may seek to have this legislation declared unconstitutional although a similar attempt in Australia failed.

However, this is not the only Governmental attack on trade marks. In the United States, the Federal Government cancelled the Trade Mark WASHINGTON REDSKINS of the American football team of that name on the grounds that it may be offensive to native Americans. However, this decision has now been challenged  on the grounds that it infringes on free-speech rights, unfairly singles out the owners of the trade mark/name and  is unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

The lawyers for the Washington Redskins argue, inter alia, that the Government has no business deciding that a name such as Redskins is disparaging and undeserving of protection as a trade mark while on the other hand ignoring such names as Braves.

We await with interest the outcome of the American case and the challenge to the Irish legislation if it takes place..

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