18 June 2014
Last updated at 15:56
The ruling – if it survives an appeal – does not bar the team from using the name but strips it of trademark protection
The US Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled the Washington Redskins trademarks, finding the football team’s name disparages Native Americans.
The case was filed on behalf of five Native Americans who argued the trademarked team name was offensive.
Members of the US Congress and many in the US sport media have called for the team’s name to be changed.
But owner Daniel Snyder has refused, saying it honours Native Americans. The team may appeal against the decision.
In its decision released on Wednesday in the case of Blackhorse v Pro Football, Inc, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board said that federal law does not allow trademarks disparaging of individuals or groups.
“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote.
The ruling applies to six trademarks – all containing the word Redskin – associated with the Washington DC National Football League (NFL) team.
The team can retain the trademark protection during an appeal process in the federal court system, however.
Should the trademarks ultimately be lost, the Redskins may continue using the name but will lose the right to sue those who infringe upon its use.
Last month, half of the US Senate called on the NFL to order Mr Snyder to change the team name, calling it a “racial slur”.
In a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell, the senators said the league could no longer ignore calls from Native American groups.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – who represents more than two dozen tribes in Nevada – also said on Monday he would no longer attend Redskins games until the name is changed.
Mr Obama, an American football fan, has also urged the Washington DC team to consider changing it.
But Mr Snyder cited polling he said suggested the public opposed a name change.