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Montana minor league baseball team in dispute with National Park Service over arrowhead logo

 The Associated Press  |    Apr 23rd, 2024 7:22pm EDT

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A minor league baseball team in Montana is calling out the U.S. Department of Interior for “unwarranted and relentless” trademark claims in a battle over the use of an arrowhead logo.

The Glacier Range Riders in Kalispell, Montana — members of a Major League Baseball partner league — applied for several trademarks and logomarks for the team that began playing in 2022. The logos include a mountain goat wearing a park ranger hat, a bear riding in a red bus like the Glacier National Park tour buses and an arrowhead with the letters “RR” in it.

The Interior Department opposes the use of the arrowhead logo. The agency filed a protest with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which rejected arguments that the baseball team’s arrowhead logo would be confused with the park service’s and create a false association between the two.

The federal agency then filed a letter of opposition last June, creating a legal case that team owners say will be costly to defend. A final hearing is tentatively scheduled for next year, team spokesperson Alexa Belcastro said.

The park service complaint notes that when the team revealed its logos it acknowledged that Glacier National Park was its inspiration.

Range riders protected the Flathead National Forest Reserve from poachers, wildfires and timber thieves before Glacier National Park was formed.

“The brand is really inspired by the founding of the national park service, the golden age when it was just getting started at the turn of the 20th century,” Jason Klein, partner with the sports marketing firm Brandiose, said when the logos were revealed. “What I love about this is that no other brand in all of sports has adopted the national parks as an inspiration.”

The park service logo is an arrowhead enclosing a sequoia tree, a snow-capped mountain landscape, bison and the phrase “National Park Service.”

“The only commonality between the Glacier Range Riders and NPS’s logos is the generic arrowhead shape,” the team said in a statement last week. “NPS has no exclusive legal rights to the shape, and it is used by countless other organizations across the nation.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of western Montana questioned Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last week about the agency’s legal action against the Range Riders, noting that other agencies, tribes and teams — including the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs — use an arrowhead in their logos, patches and flags.

Haaland said she was not aware of the action against the Range Riders, and she could not comment on ongoing litigation.

Zinke served as Interior Secretary under former President Donald Trump until he resigned in late 2018 amid ethics investigations.

“It is unfortunate that someone in the federal government is using their position of authority and resources to pursue this action that is neither for the good or the will of the people,” Chris Kelly, president of the Glacier Range Riders, said in a statement. “The arrowhead represents the strength and resilience of this land. We will fight for our ability to use it in our branding to bring together our communities, as well as the ability for it to be freely accessible to other organizations.”

The Glacier Range Riders begin the 2024 season with a home game on May 21 against the Oakland Bs, which also play in the Pioneer League.