University opposes state’s move to trademark ‘Team Kentucky’

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The University of Kentucky is opposing a move by the state to trademark the phrase “Team Kentucky” for use on clothing products.

The university argued last week in a notice of opposition with a board in the United States Patent and Trademark Office that it would “likely ... cause confusion” with the university’s “Kentucky” athletic clothing trademark, which was registered in 1997, the Courier Journal reported.

In March 2020, the state filed to trademark “Team Kentucky,” a phase Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has used frequently since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The school says the designs are “highly similar” and consumers might mistake “Team Kentucky” clothing for “Kentucky” athletic clothes and hurt sales.

State officials did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment. They have until Sept. 22 to file an official response, according to documents filed with the Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

The university “supports and applauds the governor’s use of the phrase ‘Team Kentucky,’” spokesman Jay Blanton said in a statement, but it is required under trademark law “to assert its ownership of trademarked words and images.”

“The university acted in accordance with that federal regulation by filing this information with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. UK has been working alongside the governor’s office throughout this process,” he said.

The dispute has left some confounded.

Washington, D.C.-based trademark attorney Josh Gerben tweeted about the case Monday saying “this is about as silly as trademark cases get.”

“It is a head scratcher as to why the case even got this far,” Gerben wrote. “The parties presumably were in settlement talks before a formal legal action was filed. Grab your popcorn!”