The Washington Redskins lost their biggest legal and public relations battle yet in the war over their name after a federal judge in Northern Virginia on Wednesday ordered the cancellation of the NFL team’s federal trademark registrations, which have been opposed for decades by many Native Americans who feel the moniker disparages their race.

The cancellation doesn’t go into effect until the Redskins have exhausted the appeals process in the federal court system. But even if the Redskins ultimately take the case to the Supreme Court and lose, the team can still use “Redskins” and seek trademark protections under state law. The team has argued, however, that a cancellation of its trademarks could taint its brand and remove legal benefits that would protect against copycat entrepreneurs.

U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee’s decision affirmed an earlier ruling by the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Last year, the appeal board declared in a 2-to-1 vote that the team’s moniker is offensive to Native Americans and therefore ineligible under the Lanham Act for status in the federal trademark registry. The appeal board had been petitioned by five Native American activists, including Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo Nation member from Arizona who is well known for leading protests against the team outside stadiums wherever it plays.

The Redskins tried to overturn the appeal board’s ruling in August by suing Blackhorse and the four other Native American activists in federal court in Alexandria, Va. The team argued that the Lanham Act conflicted with its First Amendment rights. It also contended that Blackhorse didn’t prove that enough Native Americans opposed the name at the time the team registered its trademarks in 1967, 1974, 1978 and 1990.