There's just one problem: The team doesn't own a trademark on the term "Washington Commanders." Washington filed to trademark the word, but it was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on May 18.
The USPTO has denied the trademark application for the NFL's Washington Commanders.
On May 18th, the USPTO issued the denial citing two reasons.
1⃣ An existing trademark for "Commanders' Classic."
2⃣ Pending applications filed by a DC-area man.
A thread 🧵#HTTC pic.twitter.com/wLsI0J6ZuI
— Josh Gerben (@JoshGerben) May 24, 2023
The USPTO cited two reasons for the denial. The first of which deals with a trademark for the term "Commanders' Classic." The term refers to the annual college football game between Army and Air Force.
The second reason for denial cited "prior-filed applications." These were filed by a squatter by the name of Martin McCaulay. In the years leading up to the team's name change, McCaulay started filing trademarks he thought the team would consider using in the future. McCaulay happened to file for the "Washington Wolf Commanders" and the "Washington Space Commanders" before the team officially decided on its new name. McCaulay said in the past he would give the trademarks to the Commanders for free.
What does the denial mean for the Washington Commanders?
The fallout could range from minor to drastic depending on how the team wants to respond. It can keep the name Washington Commanders and still sell merchandise, but it could be harder for them to stop third-party sellers from offering goods with the "Washington Commanders" name on it.
The team can also opt to change the name once again, but that seems extreme. The ruling doesn't force the team to make that change, and it's unlikely the franchise wants to go through that process for a third time in three years, even with a new owner likely taking over.
The team can also appeal the USPTO's ruling. That feels like the most probable outcome. If the team can argue its trademark of "Washington Commanders" wouldn't be confused with the other trademarks using the term, it could eventually win out.