U.S. Army Shoots Back at Holding that “West Point” is Not a Registrable Trademark

An examiner at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board refused to register the U.S. Army’s military academy crest and the words “Army West Point” unless the Army disclaimed the words “West Point.” The examiner ruled that “West Point” was not a registrable trademark, but rather a “primarily geographically descriptive” name, referring to the town of West Point, New York.

Last year, the Army applied to register the famous military academy’s crest — an Athena helmet on a shield with the words “Duty Honor Country West Point” — as a trademark for a wide range of different goods and services; it also applied to register “Army West Point” in standard characters for cellphone accessories.

The Army filed a motion for reconsideration alongside its appeal. “The term ‘West Point’ is not primarily significant as a location in New York, it is significant to the relevant consumer as the name of the applicant’s military installation and the preeminent leadership institution in the world,” the Army wrote. “Individuals do not travel to West Point to visit a geographic location, instead they travel due to the desire to visit, tour and/or attend the U.S. Military Academy.” In an earlier case in 1985, the board ruled “West Point” “points uniquely” to the military academy. The Army pointed out the board had not reconsidered or refuted the 30-year holding or given any indication the holding was no longer reasonable.

The Army has run into trademark disputes in the past. It sued Black Nights Wine & Spirits in 2007 to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name that is confusingly similar to the ‘Black Knights’ nickname used by the military academy’s athletic teams. The store had also been placing items in the store that highlighted West Point themes. The store’s name, the Army said, falsely suggested the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.” The store conceded and changed its name to “Good Nights.” The Army also recently took issue with the nickname of an NHL expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, because the Army’s parachute team is called “The Golden Knights.”

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