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NHL to fight ruling on name for new expansion franchise

North American ice hockey league the NHL has said it will fight against a ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) denying a trademark application for its new expansion franchise in Las Vegas.

The USPTO ruled against the application, citing potential confusion with the team name for the College of Saint Rose in New York, which is also known as the Golden Knights. The new team last month revealed that it will be known as the Vegas Golden Knights.

In a statement issued yesterday (Thursday), NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league will formally respond by a June 7 deadline outlining its reasons why the name should be registered “in co-existence” with that of Saint Rose “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).”

Daly added: “We consider this a routine matter and it is not our intention to reconsider the name or logo of this franchise. 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.”

The team will compete in the NHL’s Pacific Division from the 2017-18 season and will play its home fixtures at the T-Mobile Arena, a new $375m (€355m) venue that opened off the Las Vegas strip in April.

Billionaire businessman Bill Foley was awarded the NHL’s 31st franchise in June, with the league’s board having voted unanimously to take a team to Las Vegas. Foley – along with his fellow investors, former Sacramento Kings NBA basketball franchise owners Joe and Gavin Maloof – paid an expansion fee of $500m for the franchise.

In its ruling, the USPTO said: “In this case, the marks are identical in part, sharing the same dominant wording and overall commercial impression. 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.”

David Alexander, assistant athletic director for communications at the College of Saint Rose, said the school’s trademark was registered in 2004. Saint Rose does not have an ice hockey team and Alexander declined to comment on how the college would react if the NHL franchise continues to press its claim.

“It's only the first period, I don't want to get too far ahead,” Alexander told the Associated Press news agency. “We have a registered trademark. We love the name. Fifteen years ago we redesigned the logo and wanted a trademark to specifically protect our brand. The logo represents the spirit of the school.”