Palm Springs AHL Team Clears Trademark Hurdle Over Firebirds Name

The future American Hockey League affiliate of Seattle’s expansion NHL team seems to have cleared an issue surrounding the trademarking of one of their potential names.

Last fall, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) flagged the trademark attempt of Oak View Group (the owner of the Palm Beach AHL team) to trademark the name PALM SPRINGS FIREBIRDS, saying it had the possibility of confusion with the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds.

Thanks to Clark Rassumussen at DetroitHockey.Net, we’ve learned that yesterday, the Palm Beach group filed a response to the USPTO seeking a reversal in this decision. The response included a series of several real-world examples of two teams sharing a name while playing the same sport and how there was no issue with them co-existing. One strong example included the name Thunder which is in use currently by two different ECHL teams (same league!) – Adirondack and Wichita.

Palm Springs closed their plea with some logic:

“… although both Applicant and Registrant operate teams participating in the same sport, they target their products to different consumers. The two teams will play in two different leagues — Applicant’s team [Palm Springs] is a professional ice hockey team playing in the American Hockey League (with teams throughout the United States and Canada), and Registrant’s team [Flint] is a junior ice hockey team playing in the Ontario Hockey League (all of whose teams are based out of Ontario, Michigan, or Pennsylvania) … And given that the two teams will be situated over 2,000 miles from another, there is an even further reduced possibility that the target consumers will overlap. There is thus little likelihood of confusion.”

They’re right, you know.

But the hammer came with an attached letter signed by Rolf Nilson, the President of IMS Hockey Corporation, the group which owns the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. It read, in part:

“IMS hereby consents to the use and registration of the trademark PALM SPRINGS FIREBIRDS by Oak View Group, LLC … IMS does not believe there is any likelihood of confusion between its mark FLINT FIREBIRDS and Oak View’s PALM SPRINGS FIREBIRDS mark as it is sufficiently different and distinguishable … The parties have entered into an agreement to take certain steps to avoid any future likelihood of confusion”

That agreement included Palm Springs’ promise to not use anything close to Flint’s colour scheme of navy blue, orange, silver, and white nor would they “choose a logo that is confusingly similar” to Flint’s.

Given the length in which the club has now gone to secure the Palm Springs Firebirds name, it seems pretty likely that they’ll end up going forward with it (should the USPTO accept their appeal, which they most likely will considering Flint’s approval). The team had also previously trademarked Eagles, Hawks, Sun, Dragons, and Falcons, though as DetroitHockey.Net notes, the trademark on Hawks has since been abandoned and the Eagles name is already used by Colorado in the AHL.

No word on when the team will make their name official, they aren’t set to begin play until the fall of 2021, coinciding with the debut of their NHL parent club in Seattle.