Launching a new sports franchise can be tough. Deciding on a name for that sports franchise? It may be even tougher.
While the Las Vegas Golden Knights are enjoying an unprecedented inaugural season (currently leading the NHL standings and almost a lock to at least make the playoffs in the first year), their trademark applications before the USPTO aren’t faring as well, facing fierce opposition from an unlikely opponent – the U.S. Army.
On January 10, the U.S. Army filed an opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in regards to the trademark ‘VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS’. The Army claims that individuals are likely to confuse the NHL hockey team’s wide variety of products and services with the U.S. Army’s parachute team that is also named the Golden Knights. Are the Golden Knights going to the penalty box? Is the Army being overly militant? It all depends on the perspective of the likely consumer.
Bumpy Road for the Golden Knights’ Applications
Back in December 2016, we reported that the new NHL team would likely face speed bumps on the road to using this name. Sure enough, the Army filed an extension of time to oppose this mark in September 2017. Once the extension ran out, the Army then filed their formal opposition.
The U.S. Army owns an impressive trademark portfolio of over 300 live trademark registrations and applications. Among those registrations are the following:
|Serial Number||Reg. Number||Trademark||Direct Link|
|78098650||2675140||ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS||TSDR|
Here, it is important to understand exactly what a trademark opposition is. It is not a challenge to the hockey team’s use of the trademark – this would be a lawsuit filed in federal court. It is a challenge to the registration of the trademark, which is a very different issue.
Both Sides Have Solid Arguments
The Army is saying that, based on its pre-existing rights and registrations, the Las Vegas Golden Knights trademark for “entertainment services, namely, professional ice hockey exhibitions” is likely to be confused with its pre-existing use of Golden Knights (and for other “Knights” trademarks.) The hockey team has released a statement arguing that there isn’t likely to be confusion, but has yet to file an “answer” in the Opposition proceeding.
However, there is an additional layer to this issue – the owner of the Las Vegas hockey team is an U.S. Military Academy graduate and reportedly wanted to use “Black Knights” as the name of the team, but ultimately decided not to. The Black Knights are the team name for the U.S. Military Academy.
If this proceeds, the two opponents will have a trial before the USPTO administrative court, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which is process that could easily take a year or more. The Board will then analyze the evidence and arguments provided by both sides on the record, and make its ruling.
However, we wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. Army and the hockey team are working hard behind the scenes to find a way to co-exist and both enjoy the benefits of a federal trademark registration. While both sides would ultimately be reducing the scope of their protection by making concessions to the other side, they may be creating an internal agreement to decide how each side will use their respective trademarks to reduce confusion.
What About Your Trademarks?
Choosing a trademark is a difficult task. Choosing a trademark for a professional sports team seems even hard, given the wide range of promotional and licensing that sports team engage. Even those trademark protection isn’t easy, the benefits are worth the effort. If you are developing a brand, you should consider protecting and registering your trademarks. Gerben Law Firm provides free consultations – contact us today (and help avoid the penalty box when it comes to your trademarks.)