When lawyers for the Washington football team leaned hard this week on a 2004 survey to prove the team’s name is not offensive, lawyers for the Native American plaintiffs seeking cancellation of the mark had a ready reply:
The survey has been thoroughly discredited, though, said [Blackhorse attorney Jesse] Witten. He deferred to a blog post by students at the American University Washington College of Law that calls into question the methodology and demographics of the survey.
That’s the account from Buzzfeed, describing the impact of a post published on this very blog last year by IP Clinic student attorneys Natasha Dhillon, Justin Hemmings, Maggie Scales, and Will Stanley. The students noticed at the time that the Annenberg poll from 2004 continued to have a bizarrely outsized place in a debate taking place a decade later, and decided to point out several glaring flaws with the teams continuing reliance on the poll result (really a single question from a massive, multi-issue poll). A year later, no one has picked apart the poll as thoroughly or (I daresay) as enjoyably as our clinic team. Playing a role at a pivotal moment in a major case at the intersection of intellectual property and civil rights is a pretty extraordinary opportunity, and I’m proud of Natasha, Justin, Maggie, and Will for seizing it so ably.