Commanders Denied Trademark Request, Could Once Again Change Name

NFL: JAN 01 Browns at Commanders

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The Washington Commanders' trademark application was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday (May 25), which could lead to the franchise once again changing its name, Washington, D.C. based trademark attorney Josh Gerben told USA TODAY.

"They're trying to get a trademark registered on a single word like Commanders for the name of a sports team. That also comes with all the merch that goes along with that, and there's some initial issues the PTO cited," Gerben said.

Washington's trademark was denied due to the existence of the trademark for 'Commanders' Classic,' an annual college football matchup between Army and Air Force, as well as prior applications involving the name 'Commanders,' USPTO documents shared online confirmed. The USPTO cited "likelihood of confusion" as the deciding factor in its decision, as well as "prior-filled applications" by Martin McCaulay, a longtime fan of the franchise in the D.C. area, which included trademark applications for 'Washington Wolf Commanders' and 'Washington Space Commanders' in August 2021, months before the team announced its name change in January 2022.

Gerben said the NFL franchise could also have difficulties attempting to take down unlicensed merchandise from second-party dealers due to the trademark application denial.

"The Commanders may find it more difficult, if not impossible, to do that type of enforcement, that could ultimately lead to more unlicensed goods being sold, which in turn could mean less revenue for the team and less profit sharing," Gerben said via USA TODAY.

Washington had previously changed its name from 'Redskins' amid years of public criticism in 2020 to 'Football Team,' a temporary change for two seasons before announcing the 'Commanders' moniker in 2022. The Commanders were officially sold to to Josh Harris and his contingency for a league-record $6.05 billion.

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