The battle over who owns the "Buzz" trademark will move to Georgia in light of a federal judge's decision, but attorneys for Buzz owner Joe Buzas and Georgia Tech both suggest that ongoing negotiations could resolve the issue.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed in Utah by the Salt Lake Buzz in its battle with Georgia Tech University.That leaves in place a lawsuit filed in Georgia by the Atlanta-based university claiming Salt Lake's baseball team is illegally using Georgia Tech's trademarked name.
Georgia Tech's Yellow Jackets' mascot is named Buzz, and the Salt Lake Buzz baseball team's mascot is Buzzy. Both are blue-and-gold bees that are used to sell merchandise estimated at about $300,000 to $500,000 for each party in the dispute.
Buzas' suit, filed in March, asked the Utah court to rule that his team's name was not infringing on Georgia Tech's trademarks. The university filed a lawsuit in Atlanta in April alleging that the Salt Lake Buzz are liable for trademark infringement and unfair competition because its merchandise has confused the public.
"Although the record now does not clearly favor either Utah or Georgia as being the better forum, the court concludes that it should decline to hear Buzas' declaratory action," Campbell wrote.
Alan Sullivan, an attorney for Georgia Tech, held out the possibility the matter could be settled before the Georgia court takes it on.
"We'll see if it can be resolved short of a judgment of that court," Sullivan said. "We thought we had the case settled months ago."
Gregory Phillips, attorney for Buzas and the Salt Lake Buzz, termed Georgia Tech's position as "shortsighted." "Now we'll go to Geor-gia, and the Georgia court will most likely dismiss the lawsuit there because the Georgia court lacks jurisdiction over the Salt Lake Buzz," Phillips said. "The Salt Lake Buzz don't play any games, don't do any business and don't have any contacts with the state of Georgia."
The Salt Lake Buzz already have a motion to dismiss the Georgia trademark lawsuit.
So how far will Buzas take the battle?
"Based on the Utah fans and community's reaction, the Salt Lake Buzz will not give in to Georgia Tech's petty lawsuit. The Salt Lake Buzz have no intention of changing their name," Phillips said.
"When you think about the lawsuit, it's kind of a ludicrous lawsuit in the sense that they have to show that people are confused by the fact that we're named the Salt Lake Buzz and use the Buzz logo. As far as we've been able to determine, no Georgia Tech fans have shown up at Franklin Quest Field to see a Georgia Tech game," Phillips said.
"The Dallas Cowboys don't sue the Wyoming Cowboys, the Toronto Raptors don't sue the Ogden Raptors," he said.
But Phillips did not rule out the possibility that the conflict could be resolved out of court.
"We will continue to negotiate a resolution," he said.