It looks like the Vegas Golden Knights will need their own parachute, in the form of a strong trademark attorney, to escape potential brand free-fall. While U.S. government agencies have not always been the most effective in policing trademark rights, it appears the Vegas hockey team is now in their sights.
Earlier this month, the United States Army instituted trademark oppositions against two applications filed by the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team. The Army is alleging likelihood of confusion with the brand of its Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, as well as dilution and false suggestion of a connection.
The opposition is the culmination of a dispute that started with the unveiling of the NHL expansion team’s name in November 2016. At that time, the Army indicated it was evaluating the name for potential likelihood of confusion concerns; however, the NHL Golden Knights dived into their first season without changing the name.
The story doesn’t end there. The Army’s oppositions highlight statements made by the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ general manager and owner that make it clear the team was named after the Army’s parachuting crew. According to media coverage, the hockey team had even attempted to arrange for the parachute team to appear at events.
If the Army ultimately prevails in its oppositions, the Trademark Office will not register the Golden Knights’ trademarks. A federal lawsuit would be required for the Army to police use of the marks in the marketplace. Nonetheless, a Vegas-style “Elvis” landing could pull off a settlement that covers both use and registration, as is often the case.
Moral of the story: do a safety-check before adopting and using new brands—and publicizing how you selected them!