Glacier Range Riders entangled in a trademark dispute

As the Glacier Range Riders gear up for their third season in the Pioneer Baseball League, they find themselves entangled in a trademark dispute with the U.S. Department of the Interior. The source of contention lies in the Range Riders’ arrowhead-shaped logo, featuring a “RR,” which bears resemblance to the National Park Service’s emblem, as per the notice of opposition lodged with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last summer.

The issue was spotlighted by U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., during an April 17 hearing before the House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, where he characterized the dispute as “frivolous and predatory.”

Zinke, a former Interior Secretary under Donald Trump, voiced his concern, citing potential harm inflicted by large departments on local entities like the Range Riders baseball team. Secretary Deb Haaland, however, claimed ignorance of the trademark conflict, deferring to the department’s solicitor’s office.

Subsequently, Zinke criticized the bureaucratic disconnect in a press release distributed to Montana news outlets, expressing his disbelief that taxpayer dollars were being allocated towards such legal pursuits. Notably, similar trademark challenges have surfaced during Zinke’s tenure as Interior Secretary, spanning from 2017 to his resignation in December 2018 amidst ethics probes.

In a prior case, the DOI sought to cancel trademarks held by Glacier Park Inc. (GPI), a now integrated part of the Pursuit brand, which operates within and around Glacier National Park. Despite the prolonged legal battle, the trademark trial and appeal board ruled in favor of Pursuit, upholding their trademarks.

Inquiries directed to the National Park Service regarding the Range Riders case were met with an acknowledgment of active litigation, precluding comment. Meanwhile, court records offer no insight into Pursuit’s legal expenses.

The Range Riders spokesperson revealed potential legal fees associated with the current trademark dispute could amount to $500,000, with a final hearing tentatively scheduled for 2025. Expressing frustration, the spokesperson underscored the team’s ongoing struggle and urged the NPS to reconsider its approach to trademark disputes.

The Range Riders introduced their team name and logos in January 2022, drawing inspiration from the founding ethos of the National Park Service. Notably, the team’s trademarks, including the arrowhead design and various mascots, were initially approved by the USPTO without objection.

However, a letter of protest from the DOI raised concerns of potential confusion and association between the Range Riders’ arrowhead logo and the NPS emblem. Despite this, the USPTO proceeded with publishing the logo for public review in December 2022.

Subsequently, the DOI’s Office of the Solicitor formally opposed the Range Riders’ trademark, citing potential false association with the federal government. The legal proceedings are expected to continue throughout the year, with Brandiose Studios, the marketing agency behind the Range Riders’ brand, also drawn into the fray.

By: Montana Newsroom staff