Amid the process of finding new ownership, the Washington Commanders are faced with a new problem: their name.
There’s never a dull moment in the American capital. After competing for a year without a name during the 2021 season, the Washington Football Team became the Washington Commanders in 2022. The name change may have been premature, though, as Washington did not hold the trademark for the name. Now, in 2023, they still don’t and may never have it.
As reported by trademark lawyer, Josh Gerben, the Washington Commanders application for the trademark of their name has been denied. Dated May 18th, 2023, the United States Patent Office cited two reasons for refusing the claim. First, a similar trademark already exists for the “Commanders’ Classic,” an annual college football game between Army and Air Force. Secondly, there are similar pending applications placed by a savvy D.C. area man who submitted a myriad of claims when it was revealed that the team would be changing their name from the Washington Redskins. The man, Martin McCaulay, filed applications for “Washington Space Commanders” and “Washington Wolf Commanders,” in an attempt to ‘squat’ on the team’s potential new name. It seems he has been successful.
What’s next for the Washington Commanders?
Despite this setback, Gerben believes that the Washington team will eventually secure the rights to their name. “It is likely the USPTO will drop the refusal due to the Commander’s Classic trademark if a good legal argument is submitted,” he notes. It has also been widely reported that McCaulay does not plan to stand in the way of the Commanders’ application. In a letter co-signed by Florida attorney, Darren Heitner, McCaulay stated that he would do “whatever is in this power to clear a path for the Washington NFL team to rebrand themselves without the need to incur substantial legal fees.” Whether or not he is true to his work, or whether Washington will need to reach some kind of settlement with McCaulay remains to be seen.
The other question is whether the new ownership will want to fight for the name. Considering the shaky history of the team under the purview of Dan Snyder, the new owners may prefer a clean break from the team’s past and confine the Washington Commanders name to history, too.
Do you think the Commanders’ name is worth fighting for? What name would you suggest if the team has to rebrand again? Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter, or drop a comment in the section for that, below.