WASHINGTON — The Las Vegas Golden Knights, the newest franchise in the National Hockey League, defeated one of the elite teams on Sunday, besting the Washington Capitals 4-3 in a showdown between division leaders downtown in the nation’s capital.
The. Knights came back three times to tie and then take the lead for good, perhaps distracted somewhat by a different opponent waiting just across the Potomac River: the U.S. Army.
The arena for this contest will not be on ice but in a courtroom.
The Army has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office against the Vegas Golden Knights’ ownership group, Black Knight Sports and Entertainment, for using a similar team name — “the Golden Knights” — and a similar color pattern as the service branch’s skydiving team.
To be clear, it is not West Point’s mascot or color — who go by the Black Knights that is at issue. It is the U.S. Army Parachute Team which goes by the Golden Knights. The Army has charged its brand could be “damaged” by the newly franchised NHL team taking a similar name and using a similar color scheme in three ways: Dilution, the false suggestion of connection and the possibility of being brought into disrepute.
As part of its complaint, the Army cited a November interview with Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, a West Point graduate, when he referenced Army as inspiration for the name and explained that the franchise opted not to use “Black Knights” because there is “already a Blackhawks in the league.”
Foley also said that the word “knights” is a play on words for Las Vegas “nights.”
In its only response, the National Hockey League issued a statement “strongly disputing” that complaint that noted, in part, “We are not aware of a single complaint from anyone attending our games that they were expecting to see the parachute team and not a professional hockey game.”
Reports from over the weekend hinted that the two sides may be reaching a settlement. No odds have been given on that.
West Point has a hockey team, established in 1903. It was called the Cadets until 2001, when its name was changed — along with all other sports at West Point — to the Black Knights. In 2007–08 season the Black Knights won their only conference title to date, the Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Championship.
The Las Vegas team is in first place in the Pacific Division of the National Hockey League and has the second highest points among all teams, an astounding feat for a first-year expansion team. With the season just beginning its second half, they have already set the record for wins for an expansion team with 35.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights have until Feb. 19 to respond to the notice or the team will risk forfeiting its trademark. Sportslogos.net was the first to report the filing.
“The public,” the Army asserts in the legal filing, “is likely to be confused as to whether the U.S. Government or the Applicant [Black Knights] controls the quality and nature of the services or endorses or sponsors the Applicant’s services.”
The Army has used the term “Golden Knights” for its skydiving team since 1962. It has also used “Golden Knights” for public relations and recruiting purposes.
The Army may be selective in its ire, however.
For example, in 1993, the University of Central Florida switched its mascot to “Golden Knights.” The mascot of the athletic teams is a black knight with gold armor. Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, calls its athletic teams the Golden Knights.
The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York — 102 miles north of West Point — successfully registered “Golden Knights” back in 2006 for “educational services, namely providing courses of instruction at the college level; entertainment services in the form of intercollegiate sports exhibitions.” Saint Rose’s athletic teams, which compete in NCAA Division II, are called the Golden Knights. Fellow New York school Clarkson University, 270 miles north of West Point and whose men’s and women’s hockey teams compete in Division I, does so as well.
The College of Saint Rose recently filed an extension with the trademark office while they decide if they want to oppose the NHL hockey team’s trademark application as well.
Numerous high schools also use the Golden Knights as their names.
The Las Vegas team has some backup names ready, including the Silver Knights and the Desert Knights.