Seattle Kraken or Sockeyes: How Legal Implications May Influence Seattle’s Decision

Posted by

Numerous reports have surfaced regarding the new Seattle NHL expansion team’s name. Names such as the Seattle Cougars, Emeralds, Rainiers, Sea Lions, Totems, Kraken, and Sockeyes have been listed as possible options. However, legal implications may force the NHL and the team to narrow their list.

In December 2018, the NHL awarded an expansion franchise to Seattle. Since the expansion was awarded, fans have endlessly speculated about the team’s name and logo. The team, not backing down from an obvious marketing opportunity, continues to tease fans. Recently, the team tweeted, “[w]hile we’re aware of some fishy rumors surrounding our team name, please rest assured we’re doing our due diligence by scouring the depths of the ocean, the tallest mountains, and the densest parts of the forest to find the right name for our great, green city.”

The consensus is that the team has narrowed the options to the Seattle Kraken or Seattle Sockeyes. Reporter John Hoven, editor of a website that covers the Los Angeles Kings, and many others seem to believe that the Seattle Kraken is the frontrunner. While appearing on the NHL Network Radio, Hoven said, “[f]rom everything that I’ve heard, it looks like Seattle Kraken is going to be the name. Which is quite surprising, actually … I was a little bit in shock personally, just because we had been told several times previously that that was not the name that they were going for. It looked like they were leaning toward Sockeyes. And then now, I guess it’s come out that that was a name that’s been used in a book by an author.”

Using the Sockeyes name may come with potential legal implications. Previously, author Jami Davenport wrote a series of romance novels that feature a fictional football team called the Seattle Sockeyes. According to Hoven, Davenport’s novels create “one of those legal issues that the NHL tends to try to shy away from.” In an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle in January 2018, Davenport – who had recently filed to protect her trademark in the name Seattle Sockeyes – said, “I’d love for Seattle to get an NHL team … [however] I have built this brand around the Seattle Sockeyes over the last three or four years. I got a logo, t-shirts, jerseys. I make a good amount of money off it, and I know how closely the NHL guards its own brand and its trademarks. I’m not trying to profit off this or stop anybody from using that name, I’m just trying to protect my business.”

The Vegas Golden Knights ran into a similar problem when they were a recent NHL expansion team. As we previously reported, the United States Department of the Army attempted to prevent the franchise from using the marks “Vegas Golden Knights” and “Las Vegas Golden Knights.” Since 1969, the Department of the Army had used the marks connection with a U.S. Army Parachute Team, known as the Golden Knights. While the Golden Knights were eventually able to use the marks, it is possible that the NHL may want to avoid a similar situation with the Seattle expansion team.