The trademark dispute between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the United States Army escalated this week, as the U.S Department of Army filed an Opposition (.PDF) to the Golden Knights’ proposed trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Golden Knights applied for registration of the trademarks GOLDEN KNIGHTS and LAS VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS.
The Army’s Opposition to the registration of these marks cites the history of the U.S. Army Parachute Team, specifically the Parachute Team’s nickname of the “Golden Knights.”
The Army’s Opposition contends that the two trademarks are so similar, and the services represented by the two marks are so closely related, that the average consumer would be confused as to who the source of such services might be.
Although the Army has not registered their trademark for the “Golden Knights” mark, they cite their continuous use of the trademark in connection with the Parachute Team since 1969.
The Las Vegas team is the newest franchise in the National Hockey League, currently in their first season as a professional hockey team.
In determining whether or not there is a likelihood of confusion between two trademarks, courts weigh several factors. Two of the main factors that are considered are the similarity the marks in their entireties as to appearance, sound, connotation and commercial impression, and the relatedness of the goods or services which the mark represents.
Here, the appearance and sound of the marks are identical. Each entity is using the GOLDEN KNIGHTS to represent their service. The analysis will likely rest more on the second factor, which is whether or not the services are so closely related that it is likely that consumers will be confused as to the source.
Further, the Army cites the similarity in the black, gold, yellow, and white color schemes that are common to both the Army’s Golden Knights and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. In the Army’s opinion, this commonality adds to the likelihood that consumers will be confused as to who is the source of the entertainment services.
While it is unlikely that a consumer will purchase tickets to an NHL game expecting to see a parachute show, there is still the real possibility that consumers may believe that the entertainment services provided by NHL team and the Army Parachute Team are related in some way. This is mostly due to the similarity in their names and the close relatedness of their services.
The Army points to the Las Vegas team owner Bill Foley’s recent reference to his intention to use “a name used at West Point” as evidence that confusion will be likely if the hockey team is allowed to proceed with registering their trademark.
As the Opposition proceedings continue, a major question is, what will happen if the hockey team loses this battle and is not able to register their name as a trademark? The NHL season is in full swing, and the Las Vegas Golden Knights currently have the best record in the Western Conference.
Even if the Las Vegas team loses this Opposition proceeding and is not able to register the trademark, they could continue to use the name. However, they may be at risk for an injunction or lawsuit filed by the Army. The hockey team has achieved success so far this season, but its greatest challenges may still be ahead of them, off of the ice.