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By D. Shayne Christie
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 15, 1997

Gentle Ben's and UA battle over trademark


Robert Henry Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dennis Arnold, owner of Gentle Ben's Brewing Co., was cited for allegedly counterfeiting the UA logo on his "U of Ale" T-shirts, like the one modeled here. Arnold has filed a lawsuit against the UA, saying the university has violated his civil rights. Arnold has a federal trademark for the slogan, but the UA says its use violates guidelines for using UA trademarks.

When Tucson Police Department officers showed up at Gentle Ben's Brewing Co. in January and cited owner Dennis Arnold on a fraud charge for allegedly using an official UA logo, Arnold decided it was time to fight back - with a lawsuit.

Arnold, owner of Gentle Ben's, 843 E. University Blvd., said Tucson police seized the merchandise in question - two remaining T-shirts - on Jan. 8 after being tipped off by Mike Low, associate director of the Student Unions and UA licensing director. Arnold was also cited on a fraud charge, according to Tucson Police Department reports. He has pleaded innocent.

Arnold said he has a federal trademark for the slogan "U of Ale," and he decided to bring a lawsuit against Low and the University of Arizona, saying they violated his civil rights.

"They feel that they want to hassle me about this, so I am standing my ground," Arnold said.

UA attorney Mike Proctor said he would not comment on the dispute because of the pending lawsuit.

The suit is still in the initial stages, with a trial date set for April 28, Arnold said.

Low said the UA hopes to settle the case out of court. He said the university has specific guidelines regarding the use of its slogans and trademarks, and that in this case, the line has been crossed.

"The first line is that somebody needs to ask permission," said Low, who also said that if the use of a slogan leads to financial gain, the UA requires payment for the use of that slogan.

The T-shirts in question were being sold for $12 before they were seized, Arnold said.

"At no time did I go and ask the university," he said. "This has nothing to do with the university."

Arnold said he has had problems in the past with the UA Trademarks and Licensing office over the use of the name "Bear Down" and also because a sign in his window said "Go Arizona Wildcats." He said the licensing department demanded a minimum of $1,000 for the window sign, which he then removed.

Low said he did not recall that incident.

"You wonder why team spirit might be down in this town," Arnold said. "It's because you have to pay to use 'Go Wildcats.'"

The UA's take on the use of trademarks and slogans is detailed in a university identification guide that outlines everything from the exact colors of the UA's "A" logo to the correct typeface for campus street signs.

The guide states, "Businesses selling UA products to the retail community are required to pay royalties to the university. Trademarks and Licensing will take whatever actions are necessary to ensure that a vendor understands the university's rights as owner of the trademarks."

But Arnold said, "The last thing in the world I'm doing is selling university goods. There's not a sane or insane person in the world that will think that these are university goods."

He said trademark law states that the perpetrator must knowingly counterfeit UA goods, and that a reasonable person would have to think the merchandise in question represents the UA.

The Arizona Daily Wildcat showed the shirt in question to 10 students yesterday and asked if they thought the slogan looked like an official UA trademark.

Of the 10, eight said no, one said it did, and the other was unsure.

Arnold said the university has told him his lawsuit is not worth it because litigation is so expensive. He said the UA also told him it costs them nothing to sue to him.

"I'm absolutely amazed at the arrogance of these people. They have the taxpayers' money, and they don't give a damn," he said.

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