The Vegas Golden Knights issued a statement Thursday in response to a filing the day before by the Department of the Army with the United States Trademark and Patent Office. The Army is challenging the first-year NHL team’s trademark application for its name.
Pointing to its use of “Golden Knights” in connection to the U.S. Army Parachute Team dating back “at least” as far as 1969, the Army claimed it would be “damaged” by the NHL team’s trademark registration because that would “be likely to cause confusion, mistake or to deceive consumers, with consequent injury to [the Army] and the public.” The military branch also noted that the Las Vegas team’s majority owner, Bill Foley, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy who had spoken openly of taking inspiration from the Army for his new squad’s name and look.
Foley “even attempted to name the . . . hockey team the ‘Black Knights,’ ” the name used by the Army’s sports teams, the filing claimed. As evidence, it listed an appearance by Vegas General Manager George McPhee on a sports radio show, in which he said that his expansion franchise wanted to use the name “Black Knights” but were deterred “because we already had the Blackhawks in the league,” so they went with Golden Knights while knowing it was the name of the parachute team.
“We strongly dispute the Army’s allegations that confusion is likely between the Army Golden Knights parachute team and the Vegas Golden Knights major-league hockey team,” the Golden Knights said in their statement. “Indeed, the two entities have been coexisting without any issues for over a year (along with several other Golden Knights trademark owners) and we are not aware of a single complaint from anyone attending our games that they were expecting to see the parachute team and not a professional hockey game.
“That said, in light of the pending trademark opposition proceedings, we will have no further comment at this time and will address the Army’s opposition in the relevant legal forums.”
The Army also took issue with the Golden Knights’ color scheme, saying that their “black+gold/yellow+white” is a violation of the “common law rights” the Black Knights have established. The U.S. Military Academy has a hockey team that uses those colors, the filing stated, and it added as “Exhibit A” a Washington Post story from June in which this quote is attributed to McPhee:
“Bill Foley is a U.S. Military Academy guy, sort of using those colors. You know his history at U.S. Military Academy. You know about the classmates he had that he lost serving this country. So, those colors mean a lot to us …”
“The entertainment services for which the Applicant seeks registration for the words GOLDEN KNIGHTS,” the Army said in its filing, referring to the NHL team, “are closely related to the Opposer’s. Both parties use their marks in connection with sporting events, thus, Applicant’s services are likely to be perceived by the public as sponsored by, affiliated with, approved by or otherwise related to [the Army].”
As “Exhibit F,” the Army included this passage from a Post story from December 2016: “Foley, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at U.S. Military Academy, was aware of the name of the parachute team when he chose Golden Knights. He even tried to get the parachute team to make an appearance at last week’s ceremony ‘but we couldn’t make it work,’ he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday.”
As first reported by SportsLogos.net, Wednesday marked a deadline for extensions filed by both the Army and the College of Saint Rose, whose sports teams are also called the Golden Knights, to potentially oppose the NHL team’s trademark registration. While the college, which competes at the Division II level, has reportedly asked for another extension, the Las Vegas squad will have 40 days to officially respond to the Army’s notice of opposition.
A panel of administrative trademark judges from the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board is set to eventually rule on the dispute, but that could take some time. There remains the possibility that the Golden Knights could be compelled to change their name, which would constitute a rare setback for an expansion team that, remarkably enough, held the NHL’s second-best record heading into Thursday’s action.
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