Tuesday 14 January 2014

The Controversial Mark is Back in the News and a Bad Example to Boot

I’ve written about the infamous mark, here.  Miri Frankel just wrote a very nice post at the IPKat about how the United States Patent and Trademark Office has refused to register a mark with that you know what word in it.  And, the Washington Post recently published this article, [football team] owner Dan Snyder makes visits to Indian Country amid name-change pressure.”  Apparently, Dan Snyder has been making secret trips to Indian Country to get a first-hand look at the living conditions of some Native Americans.  What?  Really?  I am very surprised I had not heard about this and some media outlets have covered some of the visits—although it is supposed to be a “secret.”  I am encouraged that Mr. Snyder is making this effort.  Here is a Snyder friend’s account:

A friend of the Snyder family explained it this way: “Why is he making these trips, and why so secretly? Certainly it’s been triggered by all the attacks on him as a racist for loving the name ‘Washington [].’ So there is no question there is a link. But his feelings about the pain and depression — depression is the word he has used with me — of Native Americans who have no jobs, who have obesity issues, whose children are suffering, is profound and real.”

The Snyders have made large charitable donations in the past, contributing millions to Children’s National Medical Center and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Alexandria.

The friend, who asked not to be identified because the team did not authorize him to speak on the matter, said he told Snyder that he should let people know about these trips.

“And his answer to me was: ‘Don’t you dare. They will falsely accuse me of doing this for material reasons, and I don’t want to give them that satisfaction when, in fact, I know that’s not true.’ ”

One very interesting part of the article is a discussion about the power of social media and how “public relations issues” just don’t go away anymore--welcome to the Internet.  The article notes that issues take on a life of their own and may not be pushed away by a nice check.  Of course, this highlights the importance of carefully considering a mark before adopting it—and I suppose you should consider how the mark may be perceived in the future in an evolving society, to the extent you can.  Ultimately, I don’t think Mr. Snyder will be able to find an easy middle ground.  And, he will probably change the name—that may be all that is acceptable to those who will continue to push and push because this isn’t going to go away for him.  And, the fact that Mr. Snyder doesn’t change the name may provide “bad" inspiration for others not to change their troubling team names, such as the Arabs high school football team in California. (discussion here, and see their "design" here—top left of the page).  What do you think of that mark (word and design)?

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