The National Hockey League says it won't change the name or logo of its newest club, despite being denied a trademark by U.S. authorities.
Just a couple of weeks after the Vegas Golden Knights revealed their name, logo and team colours, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled the name was too similar to the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights, the team moniker of a school in Albany, N.Y.
"In this case, the marks are identical in part, sharing the same dominant wording and overall commercial impression," it said in denying the application.
"The nature of the applicant's and registrant's services is similar; both offer sports entertainment of a kind available in the same venues, broadcast on television, and are generally available to the same class of consumers. Accordingly, the examining attorney concludes that there is a likelihood of confusion between the applicant's and registrant's marks."
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The trademark regulator said the overriding concern was not only to prevent buyer confusion, but to protect the registrant, the College of Saint Rose, from "adverse commercial impact" due to use of a similar mark by a newcomer.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that the league is reviewing the trademark office's decision.
Daly said the league will offer a response "demonstrating why we continue strongly to believe the Vegas Golden Knights mark should be registered in co-existence with the college registration, just as a number of other nicknames currently co-exist in professional and college sports (particularly where there is no overlap as to the sport for which the nickname is being used."
"We consider this a routine matter and it is not our intention to reconsider the name or logo of this franchise," Daly said in statement posted on NHL.com
"We fully intend to proceed as originally planned, relying on our common law trademark rights as well as our state trademark registrations while we work through the process of addressing the question raised in the federal applications," Daly said.
'Only the first period'
According to the website of the College of Saint Rose Athletics Department, the Golden Knights name was chosen in a poll in 1979. The current logo was unveiled in 2001.
David Alexander, assistant athletic director for communications at the college, said the school registered its trademark in 2004. He declined to say how the college, which doesn't have a hockey team, would react if the NHL franchise continued to pursue its application to use the nickname.
"It's only the first period, I don't want to get too far ahead," Alexander said.
"We have a registered trademark. We love the name," he said. "Fifteen years ago we redesigned the logo and wanted a trademark to specifically protect our brand. The logo represents the spirit of the school."
6 months to respond
University of Alberta professor of sport management Dan Mason thinks the NHL was probably not really concerned that it would be denied a trademark "because there are all kinds of examples of other leagues and other teams where you have the same team names being used."
"It's not as though they were applying for a name that has a really global established brand, like the Yankees or the Knicks or something like that," he said.
Mason pointed out that the Canadian Football League used to have two teams with similar names — the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders.
The NHL has until June 7, 2017, to respond to the denial by the trademark office. The Vegas hockey team is due to begin play next season.