A U.S. District Court judge has ruled in favor of five Native American people who want to cancel the Washington Redskins' trademark.
The Native American plaintiffs had argued that the trademark was derogatory, and therefore was ineligible for trademark protection under federal law. In a decision issued Wednesday, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee agreed, according to the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
The team had argued that removing trademark protection would violate their First Amendment right to free speech.
Wednesday, team president Bruce Allen released a brief statement: "I am surprised by the judge's decision to prevent us from presenting our evidence in an open trial. We look forward to winning on appeal after a fair and impartial review of the case.
"We are convinced that we will win because the facts and the law are on the side of our franchise that has proudly used the name Redskins for more than 80 years.”
The team can appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if they choose to do so. And they have practice at fighting this legal battle: The first legal action to void the team's trademark began in 1992.
At stake in the case is hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing revenue. Without trademark protection, anyone could legally use the team's name -- including in protest merchandise.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had canceled the team’s trademark registration last June in a case brought by Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Phillip Gover, Jillian Pappan and Courtney Tsotigh.
The Redskins sued in federal court, leading to Wednesday's decision.