‘Team Kentucky’ and UK take steps to protect both trademarks

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The University of Kentucky and the state have been working together to coordinate and protect both group’s use of the “Team Kentucky” name that has become somewhat synonymous with the state’s ongoing fight against COVID while at the same time protecting the university’s franchise name.

The issue came up this week following news reports that suggested the university was trying to stop the state from trademarking the phrase “Team Kentucky” due to the university’s preexisting “Kentucky” trademark.

UK filed a notice last week the United States Patent and Trademark Office to block the state’s “Team Kentucky” efforts, arguing in a trademark document it could cause confusion whit the university’s athletic clothing name which has been trademarked since 1997.

But in a statement Monday, University Spokesperson Jay Blanton cleared up some of the questions, say the two are on the same ‘team.’

“The University of Kentucky supports supports and applauds the governor’s use of the phrase ‘Team Kentucky.’ It’s a phrase that reflects our shared value of protecting each other amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Under federal trademark law, UK is required 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,” Blanton explained in the statement.

“UK has been working alongside the governor’s office throughout this process. The governor’s office was aware and understanding of UK’s need to meet legal deadlines to file this information permitting the parties to continue working together to get federal protection for the Team Kentucky mark. We kept them informed at every step of the way. We continue to work collaboratively with the governor’s office on this technicality related to federal trademarks and, more importantly, we continue to support efforts to keep our communities safe. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated and to engage in healthy behaviors as part of Team Kentucky,” Blanton concluded.

The state applied for the ‘Team Kentucky’ trademark on March 26, 2020 so the issue has been simmering for more than a year.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, UK is arguing consumers looking at any sort of clothing with the “Team Kentucky” trademark will mistakenly think it is sold by the university instead of state government, thereby hurting the former’s sales.

The commonwealth’s “TEAM KENTUCKY & Design mark is highly similar to (the university’s) KENTUCKY mark such that it is likely to cause deception in violation of Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act and materially alter purchasers’ decisions to acquire (the commonwealth’s) goods,” the notice of opposition reads according to the Courier-Journal’s report.

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