NHL’s "Las Vegas Golden Knights" Run into Trademark Problems….Already

Image of Las Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas, babyyyy, Vegas. There seems to be some trouble in paradise for Las Vegas’ newest sports franchise, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights’ trademark requests for LAS VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS and VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS were smacked with office actions from the USPTO. Both trademarks were registered in international classes 25 for clothing and 41 for “ice hockey exhibitions.”

Now, contrary to other news outlets who will lead you to believe that the marks were DENIED with big red letters, they were not, and the GOLDEN KNIGHTS have plenty of time to correct this. The marks were refused and issued office actions. Those who read this blog know very well what an office action is. It’s usually the USPTO telling you that your mark is likely to be confused with another registered mark. I say usually because marks can be refused on other grounds, but the case is usually likelihood of confusion.

Here, the USPTO claims that the LAS VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS and VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS marks are both likely to be confused with GOLDEN KNIGHTS THE COLLEGE OF SAINT ROSE. The College of Saint Rose is a private college in Albany, New York. The examining attorney claims that “the wording ‘GOLDEN KNIGHTS’ is the dominant portion of both the registered and applied-for marks” and that “[b]oth the applicant and registrant offer entertainment in the form of sports exhibitions.”

In the similarity of services section, the examining attorney goes on to cite statistics for what percentage of Americans follow college sports, although I don’t know any fans of the College of Saint Rose, that’s probably because there’s only about 5 thousand students there. Sports are sports, I understand that college sports are very popular in America. But, to me, saying that consumers would believe that the GOLDEN KNIGHTS of Vegas and the same of the College of Saint Rose (who doesn’t have a hockey team) emanate from the same source because their services relate in some manner (sports teams) and the circumstances surrounding their marketing (sports marketing) could give rise to this mistaken belief, is crazy. If this is really the case for all “sports” consumers, who should change their name first? The Texas Rangers or the New York Rangers? I vote New York.

The USPTO also throws this little nugget into their similarity of services section of the marks registered in class 41: “college sports players are often drafted by professional teams.” But, interestingly enough, the College of Saint Rose doesn’t have a hockey team, so I don’t know where that argument slots in. I would say that the GOLDEN KNIGHTS would more likely be confused with the London Knights, a junior hockey team from which players are actually drafted, but who am I to say….

The crux of the argument here is that the term GOLDEN KNIGHTS is identical in both marks and the focal point of both marks, and because of this, consumers are likely to confuse the marks. I personally see the GOLDEN KNIGHTS getting this mark through with a crafty consumer sophistication argument, but honestly who did their trademark clearance? A quick search in the USPTO database for “GOLDEN KNIGHTS” returns 24 results, 2 of which are for the College of Saint Rose. That should have been a red flag to just pick another name, unless they truly thought they wouldn’t have a problem with the registration. Although, that is also hard to believe because they didn’t disclaim the terms LAS VEGAS or VEGAS. Who registered these marks…sheesh.

For now, we have 6 months to ponder how the Golden Knights will respond, and I can continue watching an incredibly paltry season for my Islanders.