The Vegas Golden Knights were the darlings of the National Hockey League (NHL) last season, getting all the way to the conference finals round of the playoffs in their first year of existence. The feel-good story of a brand new organization with a team of cast-off players getting almost within reach of the championship reads like something out of a movie, and generated breathless stories and burgeoning fans around the country. But the story nearly hit a bump when the team's trademark filings ran up against opposition from another organization with a claim to the name.
The Golden Knights' applications for trademarks on their name hit a snag when the application was opposed by no less than the U.S. Army, as the name of the Army's parachute team is called the Golden Knights. The Army claimed common law ownership over both the name "Golden Knights" and the black + gold/yellow + white color scheme that the Vegas Golden Knights were using for their uniforms. The Army's notice of opposition against the hockey team noted that Golden Knights CEO Bill Foley had initially wanted to call the team the Black Knights (the name of Army's athletic teams) but demurred in the face of potential confusion with the Chicago Blackhawks and potential opposition from the Army. The filing also cited a quote from Foley that he wanted the Golden Knights parachute team to participate in a team ceremony as evidence that the name was intentionally copied from the parachuting unit.
In refuting the claims, the Vegas Golden Knights pointed out that the two entities had coexisted for a year without issue, and that no fan would reasonably show up at a hockey arena expecting to see a military parachuting unit.
Fortunately, the two sides were able to come to an agreement that will allow for the coexistence of the respective trademarks, likely aided by the fact that Foley is a West Point graduate and donor to the program. Indeed, Foley never shied away from acknowledging that he sought to pay tribute to his Army roots in naming the team. And while tribute can often stray into infringement for those who aren't cautious, the team made a cogent point in highlighting the lack of reasonable expectation of confusion on the part of consumers, given the disparity between the two ventures. With the opposition withdrawn, the Vegas Golden Knights will be able to register their trademarks and continue to capitalize on America's love of an underdog story.