The US Army Gets Armistice With NHL Team Over 'Golden Knights' Trademark

from the fight-to-a-draw dept

NHL fans will likely still have fresh in their minds the surprising rookie season of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team that took the league by storm and lost in the Stanley Cup finals. Readers here may remember the team more for the fairly odd trademark dispute it was in with the -- checks notes -- United States Army, which for some reason opposed the team's trademark application due to the Army's college and paratrooping teams that go by the same name.

At the time, we pointed out that the opposition seemed worrisome for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it seems plainly ridiculous for the Army to suggest that anyone was going to be confused between its college teams, its paratrooping team, and an NHL franchise. Was anyone really worried about the public thinking that the United States military had suddenly gotten into the professional hockey business? But we added to that the gross nature of a branch of the United States military, with a long and storied and proud tradition, dabbling in trademark bullying for apparently no legitimate reason.

Which makes the announcement by the Vegas Golden Knights of a coexistence settlement disappointing.

Vegas Golden Knights Chairman and CEO Bill Foley announced today that the Vegas Golden Knights and the U.S. Army have entered into a trademark coexistence agreement regarding usage of the 'Golden Knights' mark and name.

"We are pleased that we have agreed to coexist regarding the use of the 'Golden Knights' mark and name," said Foley. "Our discussions with the Army were collaborative and productive throughout this entire process. We are appreciative of their efforts and commitment to reaching an amicable resolution."

It appears that the specific terms of the settlement aren't being made public. So we don't know, for instance, whether any money has changed hands here, whether a licensing agreement with the Army is now in place (likely), or whether the Army got anything else out of the arrangement. But all of that is besides the point. The real point here is that the Army brought this opposition to a resolution that didn't involve it backing away from it entirely, leaving in place the gross feeling of a military branch meddling in the trademark affairs of a private business on shaky, if any, basis.

These settlements that don't clearly define what is wrong with these types of conflicts are a direct output of our permission culture. The Army participating in this permission culture is a clear, and unfortunate, sign that this sort of thing continues to be pervasive.

Filed Under: hockey, trademark, us army
Companies: golden nights


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 7:48pm

    You're always disappointed at compromise - you're an absolutist.

    In a matter in which you've no stake at all, so a kibitzing absolutist.

    Guess you have to be an absolutist as otherwise
    headline is: REASONABLE PEOPLE COMPROMISE.

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

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 25 Jul 2018 @ 8:08pm

      Re: You're always disappointed atTrolls

      Yup, if a bad trademark case reaches a settlement instead of clearing the air, that is a "bad compromise."
      The position that bad trademarks are bad isn't an absolutist position, and TD clearly makes it's position known again and again that it does favor good trademarks.
      A "Mark of Trade" when used correctly is a way to prevent consumer confusion.
      It isn't a license to charge people not to sue them.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 10:19pm

      You couldn’t project harder if you were a million watt spotlight

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 10:54pm

      Re:

      It sucks that trademarks aren't the be-all and end-all you'd like them to be, don't it blue boy?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2018 @ 10:42pm

    ".. that the United States military had suddenly gotten into the professional hockey business?"

    You can be sure that US military intelligence (as well as the CIA, NSA, and all the other government spy agencies) is keeping a keen eye on professional hockey's star player, Alex Ovechkin, who is both a loyal Putinite as well as a Trumpite, and as such, probably being wiretapped and spied on, as are probablly all US-resident Russians, whether NHL players, NRA activists, or others who still have ties to their mother country. Nailing hockey's reigning MVP as a Russian spy would be quite a trophy for any government spook to hang on his wall, or even just an "unregistered foreign agent" conviction.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2018 @ 3:51am

      Re:

      How cute - you think some people are not being spied upon.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2018 @ 6:41am

      Re:

      "You can be sure that US military intelligence (as well as the CIA, NSA, and all the other government spy agencies) is keeping a keen eye on professional hockey's star player, Alex Ovechkin, who is both a loyal Putinite as well as a Trumpite, and as such, probably being wiretapped and spied on, as are probablly all US-resident Russians, whether NHL players, NRA activists, or others who still have ties to their mother country. Nailing hockey's reigning MVP as a Russian spy would be quite a trophy for any government spook to hang on his wall, or even just an "unregistered foreign agent" conviction."

      Exactly. You did watch that ESPN commercial, didn't you? Total proof that Ovi is a Russian spy.

      /s (in case you weren't sure)

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

  • identicon
    Grey hog, 25 Jul 2018 @ 11:25pm

    context?

    would your opinion change if it were another organization like Boston College that was suing the NHL team over the use of their mascot? To my non-lawyerly mind this is much more about a college/university suing an NHL team than the US Army. West Point is a long established college with a respectable intercollegiate athletics program - including a very good hockey team (Full disclosure: I am a grad) that the US Army just so happens to own. Is that really grounds to treat it differently than any other university? Since both are competing as the Golden Knights in the sport of Hockey, surely there is room for confusion. To me, the merits of a case are there, the more pertinent question is whether this was the best way to handle it - to which I would answer "oh hell no".

    Beat Navy

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2018 @ 7:25am

      Re: context?

      There is definitely a line between collegiate sports and professional sports and that line has a bunch of these ($$$$$$) symbols determining who gets to feed the bulldog. So Army, STOP WHINING.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 26 Jul 2018 @ 8:53am

      Re: context?

      I think I'll mention probably the best scenario in this case - the Giants. Now depending on your sportsball of choice, and the area of the country your are from that name generally means one of two things - the SF Giants Baseball team, and the NY Giants Football team. Since the lawsuit implicitly expresses that the location identifier (SF, NY, LV, ARMY) are not part of the source identifier (Giants, Golden Knights), despite the fact that they appear to be, we can discard the use of SF or NY as a distinguishing fact. And truely in conversation, the mark (Giants, Golden Knights) is often all that is refrenced, or the city is used interchangably with the mark. In context, the intended team is clearly identified. And even when that is untrue, say someone from the bay area, like myself, hearing Giants and immediately assuming SF, context sorts out the intended meaning readily enough. Never have I assumed that the baseball team was playing football, nor have I assumed the teams were related (though after learning they both played in New York when created I checked to see if the same person started them, they did not). Context prevented confusion.

      In the same way, even if this Navy boy knew that the Army football team called itself the "Golden Knights", I still wouldn't have assumed that West Point Athletes were competing in a LV hockey rink. While recognizing that unlike in my example, West point does in fact have a hockey team, called the golden knights like all its teams, I argue that from the perspective of the purpose of trademark a similar distinction can be made. Never while discussing professional NHL teams would I hear the Golden Knights and think West Point, and while discussing Collegiate Hockey would I assume you were discussing the NHL team. I;m Honestly surprised I can't find easily find examples of collegiate teams with the same names as a professional team somewhere.

      As an arm of the government I question the viability of such a non-commercial mark. And agreed, this is certainly not the way to handle the issue.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2018 @ 11:14am

        Re: Re: context?

        Actually, the fact they do both play the same sport comes to me as a much bigger factor than most would expect.

        army(like most service academies) plays all the sports, and the golden knights brand is one of the bigger ones out there - largely due to the army/navy football game that's been going on for a century.

        Since Army plays everything, them having a game in Las Vegas wouldn't be out of the ordinary, UNLV exists, and Vegas routinely hosts Tournaments and Bowl games.

        So location context is out, actual sport context is out, colors are out(both are black and gold, whatever name they call them)

        That pretty much only leaves Opponent name, most NHL teams have pretty unique mascots, and individual player, which only helps people who follow hockey, as common contextual difference.

        If you say in April (when both the college hockey finals and the end of the NHL season are both very close) "Man, the Golden Knights look good this year." Most sports fans will assume 2 things:

        You're talking about basketball
        You're talking about Army

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

      • icon
        David (profile), 31 Jul 2018 @ 10:06am

        Re: Re: context?

        In college sports, mascots are not unique. How many colleges use "Buldogs" as their mascot? I can think of four right away (Yale, Georgia, Georgetown and MSU). I know there are several others. You can complain if another college uses the same or very similar image but you can't do anything about using the same mascot.

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

    • identicon
      nae such, 27 Jul 2018 @ 9:42am

      Re: context?

      interesting i'd never known the west point teams as anything but army. the army hockey and football teams aren't known as the black knights? the hockey emblem is also a stylized 'A' or full plate black helm, as apposed to vegas's emblem of a barbute helm on a gold rimmed black shield. that seems pretty far off in terms of confusion.

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

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 31 Jul 2018 @ 1:21am

      Re: context?

      These things are over-used. How many sets of bulldogs, tigers, knights (golden or otherwise), or bears are out there? So many I cannot count.

      What makes each unique is the place or other source designation. Thus, Clemson Tigers, Detroit Tigers, Lakeland Flying Tigers, Valencia Tigers.

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

  • identicon
    Agammamon, 26 Jul 2018 @ 12:34am

    I'm confused how the Army thinks a *public* agency gets trademark protection. Even the TSA lost vs people selling stuff making fun of its logo.

    I believe the TIA also lost a trademark dispute before it was shut down.

    I mean, even the 'Great Seal' of the US doesn't have trademark protection.

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

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 26 Jul 2018 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      My first thought when I read the title was that the US Army was worried about getting sued for infringement by the NFL if this went through (for violating non-existent rights on their trademark) simply because of their long history of it.

      But then I realized the title said NHL and not NFL.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2018 @ 7:17am

    Army should stay on the other side of the line drawn in the sand by tHEM. They should not be encroaching the civilian professional side of that line.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 26 Jul 2018 @ 7:32am

    Well...

    Good Knight, stupid trademark dispute.

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


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