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How Dan Snyder and Washington should move forward with their trademark battle



On July 2, FedEx notified Washington that unless it changed its team name, FedEx will remove its signage from the stadium, cancelling the $205 million naming rights deal the parties signed. The cancellation would occur six years before the deal’s natural expiration.[1] This started a chain reaction that has rightfully led Dan Snyder to finally agree to change the team’s name after years of public outcry. The issue, however, is that since the move was telegraphed, many individuals filed trademarks on popular potential team names. One man, specifically, has become quasi-famous for his actions.

Martin McCaulay, a 61-year-old from Virginia, owns more than forty trademarks for potential team names of the Washington football team. Trademarked names that he owns include “Red Wolves,” “Redtails,” “Monuments” and many more.[2] McCaulay went from unknown collector to viral phenomenon overnight when speculation arose that the team delayed announcing a replacement name due to a trademark issue. Naturally, the blame fell on him.


McCaulay is being accused of being a trademark squatter. The purpose of trademark squatting is to profit by forcing a party to pay a greater fee for the trademark than what the owner originally spent for it. While it may be viewed by some as a shady enterprise, it is perfectly legal to do. For McCaulay, he considers it to be an expensive hobby, as he maintains a website that sells merchandise of these fake teams.[3] While he originally may have hoped for a pay-day from Snyder, it seems that is no longer his intention.


Should Dan Snyder be trembling with fear at the sight of McCaulay’s numerous trademarks? According to McCaulay, no. He recently retained sports lawyer Darren Heitner to represent and assist him in whatever potential legal process may unfold. According to a letter posted on Heitner’s Twitter page, he states that McCaulay “has no intention to stand in the way of the Washington NFL Team.”[4]

Heitner told the New York Post that “Mr. McCauley is happy to step aside and provide the football team with whatever clearance and comfort it needs to proceed with the nickname of its choice.” [5] While it may be proper to question this change of motive, it appears that McCaulay genuinely no longer has an interest in receiving a lucrative offer from Snyder. Heitner has further said that McCaulay has been threatened due to the rampant speculation that has occurred since the trademarks became relevant to the public (they have always been public knowledge as the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database is open for anyone to see).[6]


McCaulay is publicly offering to help Snyder in the team’s rebrand. If they want one of the names that he has trademarked, it seemingly will be theirs. So why has Snyder been so quiet on the topic? He can put the backlash and public shaming that McCaulay has suffered to rest, though I doubt that is his priority. More importantly to him and the team, if they want one of McCaulay’s trademarks they can expedite the process of gaining ownership over it.


Without having to worry about bidding against themselves, there is nothing stopping Snyder from engaging in conversations and acquiring the rights to the name. If they don’t want one of McCaulay’s trademarks, then Synder better hurry in deciding a new team name. Other squatters are filing trademarks each day, and it is likely that they will not be as kind as McCaulay in foregoing profit.[7] It is also noteworthy that no trademark has been filed by the football team. This can be taken to mean that it either does not know what it wants to name the team, or the name that it wants has already been filed and the team is discussing its next steps.


While I do not know what is going through Dan Snyder’s mind, I would urge him and the team around him to act quickly. The last thing the teams wants is to be stuck with a team name that it does not truly love. If Washington has to engage in discussion with McCaulay and Heitner, then do so. If Washington wants to offer him a price for his willingness to ease the process, it can; but if Washington doesn’t offer a price, then it should be dialing the number to Heitner Legal and figuring out how it can acquire one of the trademarked names. The longer this saga lasts, the worse it looks for Snyder and his football team.


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Jordan is a second-year law student at Brooklyn Law School.

[1] Liz Clarke, In private letter to Redskins, FedEx said it will remove signage if name isn’t changed, Washington Post (Jul. 10, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/07/10/private-letter-redskins-fedex-said-it-will-remove-signage-if-name-isnt-changed/.

[2] Ryan Dunleavy, Trademark hog really just wants to help Washington find new NFL team, New York Post (Jul. 15, 2020), https://nypost.com/2020/07/15/washington-name-change-wont-be-held-back-by-trademark-hog/.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Rick Maese, He stockpiled Washington NFL trademarks for years. Now he faces backlash online., Washington Post (Jul. 15, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2020/07/15/he-stockpiled-washington-nfl-trademarks-years-now-he-faces-backlash-online/.

[7] Id.

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