The U.S. Army filed a challenge with the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Wednesday to the Vegas Golden Knights‘ name, saying that it is associated with their military branch.
In its filing, the Army says that the team “has chosen and used a similar black+gold/yellow+white color scheme on uniforms, marketing, advertisements and its hockey arena, mimicking the opposer’s colors and further adding to the likelihood of confusion of the public.”
Army says it has used the Golden Knights name since 1969 in connection with its parachute team and with recruiting, and that it owns “common law rights in color scheme black+gold/yellow+white.”
The new NHL expansion franchise, which started play this season, revealed its name and logos to the world in November 2016, after filing to trademark other options.
The Army expressed its opposition to the mark 10 months later, in September 2017; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave 30 days for anyone to oppose. The Army received an extension until Wednesday.
The team’s owner, Bill Foley, graduated from Army in 1967 and was said to be strongly considering naming the team the Black Knights, which is Army’s nickname. Despite his choosing a different name, the inspiration for the name and branding was not a secret.
In its filing, the Army points to an article in the Washington Post in June in which the team’s general manager, George McPhee, makes the connection.
“Bill Foley is a West Point guy, sort of using those colors,” McPhee said to the newspaper. “You know his history at West Point. You know about the classmates he had lost serving this country. So, those colors mean a lot to us.”
The notice of opposition also cites a tweet from TSN that quotes McPhee as saying, “We were going to be the Black Knights, but we already had the Blackhawks in the league, so the league was trying to get us to come up with another name, so another name used at West Point is the Golden Knights for the parachute team.”
The team took issue with the Army’s position.
“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 team said in a statement Thursday. “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 team has until Feb. 19 to file its retort to the appeal board.
Army’s filing was first reported by Sportslogos.net.
The Army does not have any trademarks filed for the “Golden Knights.” Two colleges — UCF and the College of St. Rose — do have trademarks. The College of St. Rose also opposed the filing and this week got a second extension, this time for a period of 60 days, to file its opposition.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office initially rejected the Vegas Golden Knights logo based on its similarity to that of the College of St. Rose. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly responded by saying it believed marks could coexist and that it “is not our intention to reconsider the name or logo of this franchise.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights have become one of the most popular teams in the league in merchandise sales.
The team has been a feel-good story in the NHL this season. They endeared themselves to the league with a classy tribute to the victims of October’s Las Vegas shooting before their home opener. The Golden Knights have then shocked the league with a Western Conference-leading 60 points, a major accomplishment for an expansion team.