by Josh Escovedo
IP Law Blog
If you’re a fan of branding and sports, you may have wondered who will affix their name to the Raiders’ new stadium in Las Vegas. The construction is underway, but the team has yet to announce whose name the stadium will bear. However, we may have discovered a clue based upon a recent filing with the USPTO.
On March 29, 2019, Allegiant Airlines, a Las Vegas-based airline, filed a trademark application for ALLEGIANT STADIUM. This filing has caused significant speculation that Allegiant has either entered into a deal with the Oakland Raiders for the naming rights of the stadium, or is, at the very least, engaged in meaningful negotiations to that end. But despite the coincidental timing, Allegiant claims that it is not tied to the $1.8 billion stadium. In fact, in response to a request for comment, an Allegiant representative stated, “The purpose was to protect the trademark for Allegiant Stadium for any future uses, should we need it.” The representative did confirm that Allegiant has engaged in sponsorship discussions with the Raiders.
Although the representative’s statement may be true, those of us who are familiar with trademark applications and registrations have some reason to question Allegiant’s sincerity. A party cannot simply file a trademark application and obtain the exclusive right to utilize that trademark in commerce without actually putting it to use. While the USPTO permits applicants to file on an intent-to-use (“ITU”) basis, there are temporal limitations. Specifically, even if a party applied for, and obtained, each of five extensions permitted by the USPTO, they would only have 36 months to use the mark before it returned to the public domain. So, although it’s possible that Allegiant is looking to protect its right to use ALLEGIANT STADIUM in conjunction with a professional sports arena, these opportunities don’t frequently arise. With that said, it’s quite possible that Allegiant is simply trying to protect its right to use the mark if and when it is able to reach an agreement with the Raiders. The cost to file a trademark application and obtain a notice of allowance is reasonable enough to warrant a peremptory filing, even if the deal may never come to fruition. This is especially true when we’re talking about a $25 million per year kind of deal.
Allegiant is certainly no stranger to marketing in the sports industry. Its name appears on the ice at T-Mobile Arena, home of the Las Vegas Knights, and it was recently named the official airline of the Las Vegas Aviators, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. However, those sponsorships are likely significantly less costly than the $25 million per year that the Raiders are seeking for the stadium rights. For that reason, some industry experts have expressed belief in Allegiant’s representation. In short, these individuals expressed that they do not believe that Allegiant would be willing to spend that amount of money to have its name on the stadium. They believe it would impose a financial burden on the airline, but they also noted that companies have often been willing to stretch themselves for unique opportunities like this.
I suppose we won’t know until a deal is complete, or close to it, but we can be certain we won’t have to wait long. The stadium is set for completion on July 31, 2020.
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