Pass to the past: NFL applies for historic Duluth Eskimos trademark

EDMONTON — The National Football League may be bringing back a historic team name that will have a familiar — and occasionally controversial — ring to Canadian gridiron fans.

Records from the United States Patent Office show that the NFL filed a trademark application last week for the Duluth Eskimos, a historic franchise from Minnesota that dates back to the mid-1920s.

“The filings were made on an intent-to-use basis,” said Josh Gerben, a trademark lawyer in Washington, D.C., who ran across the application.

Gerben said U.S. law requires the league to submit a sworn statement that it has a bona fide intent to use the trademark for goods and services described in the application.

That application refers to pro football games, broadcasts, webcasts, fan clubs, a clothing line, “live musical and dance performances provided during intervals at sports events” — even a mascot.

“That is trademark-speak for: ‘This is the name of a football team,”’ Gerben said. “It suggests they’re going to use the name for a football team.”

The Duluth team played under several different names. In 1926, it dubbed itself the Eskimos and barnstormed across the United States, playing only one home game in the 1926 and 1927 seasons.

Its history is said to have inspired the 2008 George Clooney movie “Leatherheads.”

The NFL is about to commence its 100th season. Published reports in the U.S. have suggested the Minnesota Vikings were lobbying to wear a throwback Eskimos jersey featuring its igloo logo for one game.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy tackled that one in the backfield. “There are no plans to wear this jersey,” he said.

The name and logo will be restricted to “promotional and content opportunities,” he added.

Vikings spokesman Jeff Anderson said that while the Duluth Eskimos are a popular part of the team’s past, they are not part of its future.

“The Eskimos exhibit is one of the most popular attractions in the Vikings Museum and we want to bring increased awareness to that history throughout the 2019 season,” he said in an email.

“These plans do not include a team name change or a new team uniform but are instead centered around content, event activations and merchandise.”

Gerben said the U.S. patent office usually takes a few months to rule on an application.

One complication could be that the name “Eskimos” is already trademarked in both the U.S. and Canada by the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.

However, the NFL was previously allowed to trademark the name in advance of its 75th season. That trademark was subsequently cancelled in 2001.

The Canadian football club was not immediately available for comment.

It has experienced other troubles with the name, which has been called outdated and disrespectful for turning Inuit people into mascots.

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at ↕row1960

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