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Arizona Coyotes rebranding hits trademark issue

Phoenix CoyotesThe rebranding of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes has been hit with what will probably be a small road bump: a trademark filing by a third party for Arizona Coyotes.

As you’ll recall, last week Phoenix Coyotes ownership announced a name change at the end of the season, as part of a new lease agreement for Arena:

“We are very excited to announce that our franchise name will change to Arizona Coyotes for the start of the 2014-15 NHL season,” said owner Anthony LeBlanc. “Becoming the Arizona Coyotes makes sense for us since we play our games in Glendale and the city is such a great partner of ours. We also want to be recognized as not just the hockey team for Glendale or Phoenix, but the team for the entire state of Arizona and the Southwest. We hope that the name ‘Arizona’ will encourage more fans from all over the state, not just the valley, to embrace and support our team.”

As part of the name change, the Coyotes will be introducing a new shoulder patch for their home and road jerseys in 2014-15. The patch will be unveiled for the Coyotes first preseason game next season. The rest of the Coyotes uniform will not change, as the word “Phoenix” is not in use. Not a new strategy: Remember, Norm Green changed Minnesota North Stars jerseys to a generic Stars jersey before moving the team to Dallas.

But there is a twist: an Arizona businessman has filed for trademark protection on “Arizona Coyotes,” saying he was going to use the name as part of area sports complex. Tony Fioretto unsuccessfully sought federal trademark protection on several names, including Arizona Coyotes, Phx Suns and AZ Diamondbacks, and after being denied federal protection he filed trade-name registrations with the state.

Whether this ultimately affects the NHL name change is highly doubtful. Trademark and trade-name laws are not set up to reward the first filer, but rather the entity most associated with the name. If a registration is deemed to be confusing — as the feds determined with the Arizona Coyotes registration — then the application will be denied. This is most likely what will happen with Fioretto’s quest.

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