Range Riders Engaged in Trademark Dispute with Interior Department

Federal attorneys allege the baseball team’s arrowhead logo closely resembles that of the National Park Service

By Micah Drew
The Glacier Range Riders play their first game in their new stadium, Flathead Field, against the Billings Mustangs, in Kalispell on June 14, 2022. The venue will now be known as Glacier Bank Park through 2033. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

As the Glacier Range Riders face the rapidly approaching start of their third season in the Pioneer Baseball League, the team is battling a trademark dispute with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Range Riders’ arrowhead-shaped logo, emblazoned with a “RR,” is too similar to the National Park Service’s logo, according to the notice of opposition filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last summer.

The suit was brought to public light by U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., who on April 17 questioned Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland about the dispute during a hearing before the House Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee, calling it “frivolous and predatory.”

“This is the problem as a Secretary, because sometimes a large department does harm to local entities, like the local baseball team,” Zinke, a former Interior Secretary under Donald Trump, said during the hearing.

Secretary Haaland stated she had no knowledge of a trademark dispute, which is handled by the department’s solicitor’s office.

“This is why people outside the beltway don’t trust the bureaucrats inside the beltway,” Zinke said in a subsequent press release distributed to Montana news organizations. “I can tell you that if I was Secretary and this came across my desk, I’d fire the lawyer who thought it was a good use of tax dollars. Now a small business is forced to spend half a million dollars defending themselves.”

Similar trademark disputes have been filed against businesses that have had loose associations, via business, logo or name, with the National Park Service or individual parks, including under Zinke’s tenure as Interior Secretary, a position which he held starting in 2017 until he resigned in December 2018 amid ethics investigations.

In 2016, the DOI filed a petition to cancel three trademarks registered to Glacier Park Inc. (GPI), now part of the brand Pursuit, a former concessionaire with lodging properties and businesses in and around Glacier National Park. That action before the USPTO continued until 2019, extending through the period which Zinke served as Secretary of the Interior. The trademark trial and appeal board ultimately sided with Pursuit, allowing their trademarks to remain active.

A spokesperson for Zinke did not immediately respond to the Beacon’s questions about legal actions surrounding alleged trademark violations taken by DOI during his time as Secretary.

Asked about the Ranger Riders case, a spokesperson for the National Park Service told the Beacon the agency could not comment on active litigation. Court records do not indicate whether Pursuit paid for its attorneys’ fees.

Range Riders spokesperson Alexa Belcastro confirmed legal fees related to the latest trademark dispute could cost the team up to $500,000, with a final hearing tentatively scheduled for 2025.

“GRR has been dealing with this for more than a year now and it will be at least another year of our team’s time to defend ourselves in this matter unless the NPS stops its trademark bullying practices,” Belcastro wrote in an email.

The three main logos of the Glacier Range Riders baseball team.

The Range Riders announced their team name and logos in January 2022, with colors and imagery “inspired by the founding of the National Park Service … a much more rugged version of adventure that goes back to the founding years,” Jason Klein, a partner with sports marketing agency Brandiose, told the Beacon. “No other brand in all of sports has adopted the national parks as inspiration.”

Ridge Run Intangibles, Inc., which owns the team, filed trademark applications in late January 2022 for the arrowhead design, as well as for a logo with its grizzly bear mascot “Huck” riding in a red bus; the baseball bat wielding, ranger-hat wearing mountain goat mascot “Cliff;” and two team logotypes, including one using the word “Glacier.”

None of the applications were flagged by the USPTO’s examining attorney, and all proceeded through the trademark process.

However, a letter of protest was submitted in October 2022 by the DOI indicating there was a “possible likelihood of confusion” and “possible false association” between the Range Riders’ arrowhead logo and the National Park Service’s own trademarked arrowhead. The evidence provided was reviewed but no further actions was taken by the examining attorney, and the logo was published for public review in December 2022.

On June 20, 2023, attorneys for the DOI’s Office of the Solicitor submitted a formal notice of opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, alleging a high likelihood of confusion with the NPS, a false association with a nationally recognized symbol and dilution of the NPS brand.

“Applicant’s mark, which is highly similar to Opposer’s Arrowhead mark, coupled with Applicant’s stated intent to identify with Opposer and Opposer’s Glacier National Park and to trade on Opposer’s goodwill, is likely to falsely suggest a connection with the Federal Government,” according to the document.

Attorneys for the team responded to the allegations, stating that the two arrowhead logos are different enough that no individual would mistake one for the other and that they are “not aware of any confusion caused by said sales.”

The team’s “customers are fans of the Glacier Range Riders baseball team and knowledgeable that the goods and services provided under applicant’s mark are affiliated with the baseball team and not [the National Park Service,]” according to the document.

Legal proceedings in the dispute are set to continue through the end of this year, with expert disclosures due at the end of June. A subpoena has been served to Brandiose Studios, the marketing agency behind the Range Riders’ brand.

A screenshot of the Range Riders’ website, advertising its arrowhead-branded gear.

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