It is probably not a good idea to pick a fight with the Army, so changing your name to avoid battle with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point can be a wise tactic.
The United States of America has sued Black Nights Wine & Spirits to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name that is confusingly similar to the Black Knights nickname used by the academy’s athletic teams as far back as the 1940s.
After four cease-and-desist letters and the filing of the lawsuit on Aug. 8, the store has seemingly conceded.
“We’ve changed the name to Good Nights,” said a man who answered the phone at the store Thursday evening.
He would not identify himself, and he said that Frank Carpentieri, the owner of Frasiekenjes LLC, the company that runs the store, would not be available for a few days.
The lawsuit, filed by acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim, accuses the liquor merchant of tarnishing the academy’s brands.
The Department of the Army holds several trademarks for “Black Knights” and the West Point crest.
So it did not escape the army’s attention when Black Nights Wine and Spirits opened last September on Main Street in Highland Falls, just beyond the West Point gates. The store’s name, the Army says, falsely suggests that the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.”
It’s not just the use of a similar name that gets the Army up in arms.
The Army drew a line in the sand within weeks of the store opening last year, by mailing a cease-and-desist letter that alleges trademark infringement.
The store then installed a more permanent “Black Nights” sign and placed several items in and around the store that highlight West Point themes.
A wooden statue of an Army cadet in full dress uniform stands near the entrance. At one point, the statue wore a vest with the wording, “All for the Corps,” a phrase that has meaningful associations to the Corps of Cadets.
West Point paraphernalia and memorabilia are placed throughout: a flag with the academy’s crest, a football helmet and jersey and a photograph of graduating cadets on parade.
Four steps leading to a wine display bear the rallying cry, “Go Army Beat Navy,” in the official black, gold and gray colors of the athletic teams and in apparent homage to the annual Army-Navy football classic.
West Point themes are also used on the store’s Facebook page.
West Point sent two more cease-and-desist letters last fall. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent another in February.
Yet, Black Nights Wine & Spirits did not stand down.
Besides the alleged abuse of West Point’s goodwill and brand reputation, the lawsuit states that the liquor store defies military policies.
“The Department of the Army is highly concerned with the use of alcohol among its soldiers,” the complaint states, “and is committed to deglamorizing its use.”