A federal judge recently ruled against the Washington Redskins’ logo, which cannot have federal trademark protection any longer because it is “offensive” to some. But don’t mistakenly assume the ruling means the team can no longer use it; what it means is that anyone can use it because it can’t be held exclusively by the football franchise. (Here is a useful piece on this dispute by Elizabeth Slattery of Heritage.)

Two thoughts on this.

First, if all it takes is allegations of being offended by a trademark, how does any court in the future say that some claim of offense is not good enough? Suppose that animal rights activists say they’re offended by the Green Bay Packers, named for the meat packing company that put up the initial money back in 1921. Once we have said “yes — we can’t allow you to be offended,” how do we ever say, “no — you say you’re offended but we’re not going to bother with your feelings”?

Second, why should the federal government protect trademarks anyway? If a sports team is worried about people selling “their” stuff, why shouldn’t it look for ways of assuring consumers which items are genuine?