US Army Wades Into Battle With Las Vegas Golden Knights

Guest Post by AJ Lee


The Las Vegas Golden Knights haven’t had a whole lot of problems in their unprecedentedly successful inaugural season.

Since 1960, none of the 64 expansion teams to launch in the NHL, NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball managed so much as a winning season. Then, the Knights came along winning the Pacific Division, posting a .655 winning percentage, and sweeping their first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings... but their toughest battle may be off the ice.

Trademark Dispute

Troubles with the Golden Knights name began less than a month after the hockey franchise announced that choice in November 2016. At that time, a Vegas trademark request was denied over the “likelihood of confusion” with the registered mark of the Golden Knights of the College of St. Rose in Albany, N.Y. In August 2017, the United States Patent and Trademark Office approved the team’s use of its name for identification and competition purposes, but it suspended a trademark request for the Las Vegas logo pending further appeal.

On Jan. 10, that appeal came. The U.S. Army filed a complaint with the trademark office over the Golden Knights ownership’s use of a name and color scheme similar to that of its athletic teams and Golden Knights parachute team. Two weeks later, Las Vegas filed a settlement motion with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

As of yet, there has been no resolution.

The Army’s argument is that the Las Vegas team’s use of the gold, black, gray and white palette — used by its West Point teams (known as the Black Knights) — and selection of the Golden Knights name (used for decades by its parachute team) creates the impression that there is a link between the Army and the hockey team. The team countered with a statement, saying in part, “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.”

No Disputing These Ties

The team’s majority owner, Bill Foley, is a West Point graduate. He took an active role in choosing the color scheme, mirroring that of West Point’s Black Knights. His ownership group is named Black Knight Sports & Entertainment, LLC.

At the team’s uniform unveiling in June, Knights general manager George McPhee said, “Bill Foley is a West Point guy, sort of using those colors. You know his history at West Point. You know about the classmates he had that he lost serving this country. So, those colors mean a lot to us, and will mean a lot to our players.”

So, Who Wins?

Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, an attorney and associate dean at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, reported that a panel of three Appeal Board judges will evaluate the official arguments and offer a written decision — a process that could take more than a year. He further posited that if the Army’s argument succeeds, its next step could be to seek an injunction barring the team from using its name. The losing side could appeal, and the case could take years to meander its way to a conclusion.

More likely, though, would be a settlement. For example, the Vegas Golden Knights could change their colors. Or maybe the team’s name could be tweaked. So, bring on the Vegas Knights.

Days don’t matter there, anyway.