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Georgia Tech Sues Team Over Mascot

April 15, 1998

ATLANTA (AP) _ Georgia Tech and a minor league baseball team in Salt Lake City are trying to swat each other’s mascots with trademark lawsuits.

The Yellow Jackets have Buzz, a bee decked out in dark blue and gold. The Salt Lake City Buzz have Buzzy, also a blue and gold bee. Both sell merchandise with the word Buzz on it.

``We are known all over the country as the Buzz. They are the Yellow Jackets. They are not the Buzz,″ said Joe Buzas, owner of the Utah farm team of the Minnesota Twins.

But Tammy Tuley, a spokeswoman for Georgia Tech’s licensing program, said the university obtained trademarks in 1987 and 1988 for the national and international use of the word Buzz as it relates to sporting events and clothing.

``To say anybody outside of Atlanta or Georgia has never heard of Georgia Tech’s Buzz would be inaccurate,″ she said Wednesday. ``We play games in a variety of cities ... and have alumni across the country. They associate Buzz with Georgia Tech.″

Buzas’ suit, filed in March, asks a Utah judge to rule that his team’s name isn’t infringing on the university’s trademarks.

``What does a bee do? It buzzes. You can’t own something that an insect does,″ he said.

Georgia Tech’s lawsuit, filed in Atlanta April 3, alleges the Utah team is liable for trademark infringement and unfair competition because its merchandise has confused the public.

``I know of at least one store that sells their merchandise because they thought it was Georgia Tech,″ Tuley said. ``We’ve already found that it has ... cut into our revenue.″

The Salt Lake Buzz uniforms are featured in the upcoming ``Major League III: Back to the Minors.″ It could mean a big boost for merchandising, similarly to the way ``Bull Durham,″ starring Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon, boosted the sales of Durham Bulls caps and jerseys.

Tech makes about $300,000 to $500,000 per year on sales of Buzz merchandise. The money is used for scholarships, Tulley said. Buzas said he doesn’t know how much his team makes but estimates it at least equals Tech’s sales.

The dispute began in 1996 when a Georgia Tech official spotted the Utah merchandise in an Atlanta store. The two sides discussed an agreement that would have had the baseball team stop using the name at the end of this year.

But Buzas pulled out of the talks in March when, he says, fans in Utah got upset.

``I had so many fans tell me, `You can’t change the name.′ I decided they were a little more important,″ he said.

Buzas has owned the team _ originally the Portland, Ore., Beavers _ for 13 years. He changed the name five years ago when he moved the team to Utah, which is known as the beehive state.

``Nobody ... is going to confuse the two teams,″ he said.

Buzas said he would be willing to stop selling his team’s merchandise in Georgia and would use only the full name, Salt Lake City Buzz.

Tuley said that wouldn’t be acceptable.

``This isn’t about a geographical location. They are trading on a name that we own,″ she said.

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