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Armacost says UND hockey coach had no conflict of interest concerning daughter’s ownership of NODAK LLC

Review by North Dakota's assistant Attorney General found no wrongdoing

UND president Andrew Armacost
UND president Andrew Armacost. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – UND President Andrew Armacost said UND hockey coach Brad Berry was under no conflict of interest connected to his daughter’s previous status as registered agent of NODAK LLC.

As previously reported by the Herald on Thursday, UND conducted negotiations with NODAK LLC, which transferred sole ownership of the trademark to the university. According to a press release from UND, the university has never been required to pay royalties to NODAK for use of the mark on its jerseys, and no financial transaction was involved during the transfer of the trademark back to UND.

UND's press release came after questions were raised Thursday about the relationship between NODAK, Berry and the university concerning the trademark.

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Armacost appeared on Forum Communications columnist Rob Port’s “Plain Talk” podcast on Friday, and said all of UND and the North Dakota State University System’s protocols were followed concerning NODAK LLC’s relationship with UND.

“When we have a potential conflict of interest with a UND employee, that employee meets with their supervisor, and handles the matter internally, which is exactly how this situation was handled,” Armacost said.

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Armacost says a review conducted by North Dakota’s Assistant Attorney General clears Berry of any involvement in a conflict of interest with his daughter’s LLC.

“At this point, the assistant AG and I both believe that the steps taken resolve any appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Armacost. “No commerce that we’re aware of was generated by this trademark, and there has been no evidence of influence by coach Berry on the monetization of his daughter’s LLC.

Armacost said he learned about the situation about a week and a half ago, through a notification from the North Dakota University System’s anonymous hotline, where citizens may voice concerns about issues affecting any of NDUS’ 11 institutions. He was not directly involved in conversations with Berry about NODAK. Those conversations were handled by Athletic Director Bill Chaves.

When asked by Port why UND did not file for trademark protection immediately after the first NODAK jerseys were unveiled in 2020, Armacost said a variety of factors, including the onset of the COVID pandemic, uncertainty about the future popularity of the jerseys and the university’s status as a longtime user of NODAK, influenced UND to forego acquiring a trademark.

“There was a global pandemic happening in April 2020, so that may have influenced things,” said Armacost. “Going back to our understanding of trademark law, we were the senior users of NODAK, which gives us legal protection. At that point, NODAK was still an experiment. When we sold out of the first 450 NODAK jerseys shortly afterwards, it became clear that NODAK was an idea that the hockey community latches on to. We now have that trademark registered as a consequence of negotiations with NODAK LLC.”

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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