Cleveland Indians weigh in on the U.S. Patent Office actions taken against the Washington Redskins

CLEVELAND - Before rain postponed Wednesday's Cleveland Indian's game, fans made their way to Progressive Field early for the free shirt give away featuring a "Cleveland that I Love" logo designed by local artist George Vlosich. But there was another Vlosich designed shirt that was also prominent at the ballpark this night, an outline of Chief Wahoo filled with the words "Keep the Chief."

The shirts a sign of the passion by so many Cleveland fans to protect the Chief Wahoo logo especially as so much attention is being focused in Washington where the Redskins were dealt another blow in their effort to keep their team name when the U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday that the Washington Redskins nickname is "disparaging of Native Americans" and that the team's federal trademarks for the name must be canceled.

The 2-1 ruling comes after a campaign to change the name gained momentum over the past year. The team doesn't immediately lose trademark protection and is allowed to retain it during an appeal, which is likely.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused to change the team's name, citing tradition, but there has been growing pressure including statements in recent months from President Barack Obama, lawmakers of both parties and civil rights groups.

If the Redskins ever change their name many Cleveland fans fear the Indians and especially Chief Wahoo would be the next target.

"That's the first thing they're going to go for because everybody wants to be politically correct and I just think they take that a little too far," said Jeff Zarbock of Eastlake.

Jared Brill said they can do what they will in Washington but Wahoo means more to him than just a logo. "It means the pride of my city, my sports team and I'll keep wearing it and representing it," he said. "They won't take it away, they can't, Cleveland won't let them."

Case Western University Associate Law Professor Aaron Perzanowski specializes in trademark law said the U.S. Patent Office actions are more symbolic. "It doesn't mean that the team has to changes its name, it can continue to use the Redskins name and logo."

"It doesn't mean that they actually lose trademark protection, it just means that they lose sort of marginal benefits of federal trademark registration and for a trademark that's been around as long as the Redskins, for one that is as well known as the Redskins, those benefits of registration are minimal at this point," he said.

The impact he believes is not so much in a court of law but a court of public opinion. "This case and the attention that is getting is going to put more pressure on the team in the non legal process,
 sort of the world of public opinion to think seriously about changing the team name going forward."

As it relates to the Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and other teams Perzanowski said "I think those teams would be smart to pay attention to this case going forward."

But he believes the arguments that applied to the Redskins name aren't supported when used with the more generic Indians name. Chief Wahoo though may fall into a different category.

"In the case of the Indians the logo itself as opposed to the name is where I think most of the controversy has been and you've seen the team clearly scale back in how prominently they use that particular image," he said.

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