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Women’s hockey leagues in trademark dispute over rights to ‘NWHL’

Julia Sudnitskaya/ISTOCKPHOTO

Tensions are escalating between two rival women's hockey organizations, as the Canadian Women's Hockey League is challenging the National Women's Hockey League's rights to the trademark "NWHL" in Canada.

A CWHL spokesperson confirmed the challenge filed with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

The Ontario Women's Hockey Association, which operated a different National Women's Hockey League in Canada and the U.S. from 1999 to 2007, joined the CWHL's challenge.

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"The contestation of the NWHL trademark … are standard business procedures designed to protect the CWHL's name and intellectual property rights within Canada," Sasky Stewart told The Canadian Press in an e-mail Wednesday.

A challenge to the trademark hasn't been filed in the United States. The CWHL's move may be to block potential NWHL expansion into Canada.

The current four-team NWHL, based in the United States, has played one season. That league has until June 13 to counterfile.

"We have been advised by counsel that the opposition proceedings in Canada are without merit," NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan said.

The NWHL committed to pay its players with a salary cap of $270,000 (U.S.) per team, which works out to an average of $15,000 per player.

The CWHL doesn't pay its players, and now faces pressure to do so to prevent players defecting to the U.S. league.

The CWHL rose from the ashes of the previous National Women's Hockey League, which ceased operations in 2007; its Clarkson Cup championship trophy has been awarded for seven seasons.

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While the two leagues managed to agree at the last minute to a women's scrimmage at this year's NHL all-star game, relations between the two circuits have been frosty.

The CWHL has teams in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Boston and Brampton, Ont.

The NWHL operates teams in New York, Boston, Buffalo and Hartford, Conn. The Boston Pride won the inaugural Isobel Cup, which was played on the same weekend as the Clarkson Cup in March.

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