Washington D.C. partner Jesse Witten received the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) Special Recognition Award on Tuesday, February 23 at the NCAI’s 2016 Annual Leadership Awards ceremony. The NCAI selected Witten for the award to recognize his work in Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc., a case in which Drinker Biddle lawyers represent five Native American individuals seeking to cancel the trademark registrations of the Washington professional football team.
Founded in 1944, the NCAI is the oldest, largest American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. The NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and their citizens. The NCAI’s annual Leadership Awards are presented to individuals who have provided extraordinary service to the Indian Country.
Working pro bono, in June 2014, Drinker Biddle and Witten persuaded the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the team’s trademark registrations because they disparage Native Americans. In July 2015, Drinker Biddle and Witten prevailed on the team’s appeal to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The team has further appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which is expected to hear the case later this year.