The National Hockey League is adding a new expansion team in Las Vegas that will play its home games in the impressive new T-Mobile Arena located on the strip.  The new team is scheduled to start playing in the 2017-2018 NHL season.  So, this new team will need a new team name and—you guessed it—trademarks!

Like any new business, the team has been working hard at the task of picking a new team name and trying to secure trademark protection. Interestingly, when asked about the team name, General Manager George McPhee said they wanted “a unique identity.”  To see a short video about the name selection click here.  The Vegas franchise focused on names that involved Knights.

The franchise is owned by Black Knight Sports and Entertainment LLC, run by Bill Foley. Mr. Foley’s interest in Knights apparently stems from his time attending West Point military academy.  West Point’s sports teams are known as the Black Knights.   Foley initially wanted to call the new hockey team the Black Knights but received push back from West Point, according to the Army Times.  Knights also appear in other Army teams – the U.S. Army Parachute Team is called the Golden Knights, and it appears Mr. Foley next moved his choice for a team name to the Golden Knights.

On August 23, 2016, the team filed 16 different trademark registration applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to cover various designs and logos for six potential options for team names based on “Knights”:

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If budgets allow, you too can file multiple alternative trademark applications and see which marks get approved before you ultimately select your final name for a new business or product. Although it usually only takes the Trademark Office 3-4 months to complete the initial phase of examination, the team didn’t wait.  On November 22, the team unveiled its chosen new name – the VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS.

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Two weeks later, the Trademark Office issued a preliminary refusal to register VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS, as well as several of the other alternative marks based on the potential to cause confusion with other collegiate sports teams who were already using KNIGHTS, GOLDEN KNIGHTS, or SILVER KNIGHTS. Apparently, athletic Knights aren’t actually all that unique. And, it is unclear whether the U.S. Army Parachute Team will object.  The Army doesn’t own a formal trademark registration for GOLDEN KNIGHTS, so the Trademark Office cannot use the parachute team name as a reason to refuse the NHL federal registration.  However, the Army has the right to oppose registration based on its unregistered rights acquired through decades of use by the parachute team.

The NHL team is undeterred and plans to file a response, arguing in part that because they are using GOLDEN KNIGHTS for a professional team, there shouldn’t be any confusion with anyone else using GOLDEN KNIGHTS for a college team. Their response is due to be filed by June 7, 2017.  It remains to be seen whether they will only be pursing the applications for VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS at this point or will present similar arguments for the other applications pending for their alternative team names.