US Army Files Dumb Trademark Opposition Against The NHL's Las Vegas Golden Knights

from the war-on-ice dept

This post will come as no surprise to those of us super-interesting people that for some reason have made trademark law and news a key fulcrom point in our lives, but the United States Army has filed an opposition to the trademark application for the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Some background is in order should you not be one of the roughly twelve of us in America that are hockey fans.

Starting around 2007, the United States Army went on something of a trademarking spree, filing for marks long in use, including some of the monikers for well known units and/or what I would call "show units", or units that chiefly serve to be seen at entertainment venues such as air and water shows. Included in these marks were the Army's "Black Knights" mascot for its military academy athletic teams and its Golden Knights paratrooping unit that performs at air and water shows all over the country. The army uses these trademarks to rake in millions of dollars in merchandise.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights is an NHL expansion hockey team started by a graduate of West Point, Bill Foley, who wanted the team's garb and name to serve as an homage to his military roots. To that end, he had initially wanted to name the team "The Black Knights", but switched to "The Golden Knights" after the Army voiced its displeasure. The color scheme for the team is a clear call back to the paratrooping team that shares the name.

It has been these clear admissions of homage that the Army has pointed to as an indication that this is obvious trademark infringement.

The Army also highlights public comments made by Golden Knights officials where they admit to trying to connect to the Army. For instance, last July, Golden Knights general manager George McPhee revealed to The Washington Post’s Aaron Torres that the Golden Knights’ color scheme of black, gold, yellow and white was intentionally selected for its similarity to a color scheme used by the Army at West Point. “Bill Foley is a West Point guy,” McPhee noted. “You know his history at West Point. You know about the classmates he had that he lost serving this country. So, those colors mean a lot to us, and will mean a lot to our players. And we’re really proud of the logo. It’s clean, it’s symmetrical, it’s kind of bold and again it stands for something.”

Except that none of that makes any of this trademark infringement. For trademark infringement to have occurred, there needs to be either real or a reasonable likelihood of confusion in the market. While the US Army does sponsor professional sports leagues, and while its paratrooping Golden Knights do put on a show, none of that puts them in the same commercial marketplace as a professional hockey team. And I will say, as an aside, the concept that the United States Army, defenders of the free world, with all of its storied history and tradition, has been reduced to an intellectual property fight over a respectful homage in the professional sports commerce battleground is just sort of gross.

For its part, while the Las Vegas Golden Knights have until late February to respond to the opposition, the team's public statement on the matter doesn't indicate that it will be surrendering to the Army any time soon.

“In the Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. Army filed its opposition to the Vegas Golden Knights’ applications to register the trademark VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS used in connection with the sport of hockey. 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. 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.”

Unless the Army wishes to trivialize its reputation even further, hopefully this opposition will be the one and only pushback on the NHL team it will make.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    hij (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 5:22pm

    Needs more players

    One thing to make this even more better would be to get the Clarkson University Golden Knight hockey team involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 7:20pm

    IP is our most valuable asset.

    They make millions selling gear & stuff...
    I didn't think a 500 billion budget needed a few million.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    justok (profile), 23 Jan 2018 @ 7:45pm

    So

    But they seem to talk about having to 'chute on goal, so I was confused. Can't talk. In a hurry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 23 Jan 2018 @ 8:01pm

    Haven't other government agencies gotten slapped down (TSA being one I recall) over *not being able to copyright* things like their agency logos?

    All that - produced by the government - is supposed to be in the public domain by default, isn't it?

    SO I'm not sure how they're going to successfully defend 'Golden Knights' as their IP when 'US Army' and the Army logo can't be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 8:10pm

      Re:

      You'd be surprised. I think Georgia tried to copyright their laws so nobody could make copies for referencing to them. (Because apparently nobody would make laws if they couldn't claim the copyright on those.)

      It's stupid as hell, but that didn't stop MyNameHere and Slonecker from supporting the idea. (Or maybe it encouraged them too. You can never tell with IP fanatics.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 8:57pm

        Re: Re:

        At least with the Georgia thing there are actual standards created and owned by private parties - which the laws quote or reference - and that's what the copyright action was. Since a private company owned the standards referenced then another private company couldn't copy them.

        The Golden Knights - created, owned, and operated by a government agency.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2018 @ 8:08pm

    Cite please to the statement of fact that the USA is making millions from trademark licensing. This contradicts several decades of experience dealing with the USA in matters related to trademarks, so I am obviously interested to learn about facts to the contrary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    StarkRaginMadLunatic, 23 Jan 2018 @ 10:39pm

    School yard antics

    My highschool should get in on the action then: Eastern York Golden Knights. When I was there, one of the shop teachers made a complete suit of armor for us. Definitely worth a law suit!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2018 @ 1:41am

    Bill Foley is the idiot. He applies for a trademark on "The Golden Knights" and had previous knowledge that it was a well known trademark of the U.S. Army. That's like someone trying to apply for a trademark on "The Golden Arches of New York". the GFolden Arches is well associated with McDonald's. Claiming that the U.S. Army is opposing such a dumb trademark from Bill Foley is asinine and that TECHDIRT should know better than to stroll into the territory of trolling a trademark or copyright that someone else owns.

    YOU GUYS GET THE RAZZIE FOR WORSE NEW ARTICLES EVER.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 2:33am

    Sources reported that Olaf has been hired by the Army as the lawyer for the suit. Elza horrified he accepted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2018 @ 3:59am

    Which units are you two?

    Well I'm in the red facial-reconstruction-all-my-skin-was-burned-off knights

    And He's in the blue/green corpse corps because the US army wouldn't pay for any of his basic equipment or armor and sent him into the front lines with barely 2 weeks training.
    (We shortened it to Team Teenager because it's catchier!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wevrem (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 6:42am

    Timothy, in your opening sentence, it should be fulcrum with two u's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2018 @ 7:50am

    Hey, in the original six team + some of the more northern cities, at least down to Philly, there's hockey fans en masse. I'm so offended! Just kidding. But I lived in Detroit and Boston and in both cities, NHL is more popular than NFL and MLB. At some point in the past the NBA might have been equal in Boston, but the Celtics don't have the rich history the Bruins have of out-there amazing players.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 24 Jan 2018 @ 9:42am

      Re:

      Yeah, I'd say hockey is more popular than basketball because if you pretend to fall over because another player got close to you, you get laughed at instead of making the other guy get a foul.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jan 2018 @ 3:49pm

    The Army has a case

    "The Golden Knights will make a promotional appearance at the Mccarren Airport. Come out and show your support!"
    Who is going to be there? The article states " there needs to be either real or a reasonable likelihood of confusion in the market". I think the Army has a case!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2018 @ 2:31am

    What a dumb move. I'm pretty sure Vegas could outspend the U.S. Army in court if it really came down to it. Not many people could outspend the U.S. Army, but dat casino money, yo.

    I also predict frivolous IP violation lawsuits to overtake false rape accusations in the future, once the latter has finished running its course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.