The U.S. Army has filed a trademark challenge against a Las Vegas hockey team over its use of a gold and black color scheme and the name “Golden Knights.” Saying that the Army’s elite parachute team has owned the name and colors for decades, a report says.
The Army charges that the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team violates trademark and copyright laws because the Army Golden Knights parachute team has used the name and color scheme since 1969, ESPN reported.
In its challenge filed with the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the Army says the NHL 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.”
The complaint continued asserting that the Army owns “common law rights in color scheme black+gold/yellow+white.”
The Army also cited certain statements, interviews, and even Tweets by those associated with the team as having chosen the name and colors because they were linked to the armed forces. This, the Army says, is proof that team officials essentially sole the name and colors from the Army.
In particular, the team’s general manager, George McPhee, once made a direct connection between the team’s name choice and the Army’s use of the name and colors.
“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,” McPhee was quoted as saying in 2016.
The Army has been unhappy with the hockey team’s choice since it announced the new name and uniforms in November of 2016, but officially expressed its opposition to the team’s actions last September.
The team issued a statement disputing the Army’s challenge:
“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.”
Others find the Army’s challenge suspect, as well.
Trademark and copyright expert Jennifer Ko Craft, a member of the Intellectual Property and Media, Sports & Entertainment team for law firm Dickinson Wright, feels that the Army is overstepping.
“Sometimes, you need to step back and put aside what the cases and rules say, and ask yourself — would someone mistakenly buy a ticket to a Vegas Golden Knights hockey game, thinking that they are buying a ticket to an Army Golden Knights parachute event? I just don’t see it, and I would be surprised if the TTAB (Trademark Trial and Appeal Board) rules in the Army’s favor,” Craft said.
Further complicating the challenge, the Army is relying on “common law” assumptions of ownership because the government had never filed for any trademark or copyright protections for the parachute team’s name and symbols.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.