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ASU threatens to sue Chandler microbrewery over name

Don't these government nannies have any real work to do? We are told that government is a powerful servant and that we the people are the master but that doesn't seem to be the case here!


ASU threatens to sue Chandler microbrewery over name

by Edythe Jensen - Jan. 5, 2010 07:24 AM

The Arizona Republic

The owner of a downtown Chandler microbrewery learned the hard way that you can't name beer after the Arizona State University mascot.

Sun Devil Ale has been a hit at San Tan Brewing Company for a couple of years, said owner and brew master Anthony Canecchia. But a strongly worded letter for an attorney representing ASU is forcing him to scrap Sparky-related promotional items, change menus and host a name-changing contest.

The Oct. 16 letter (Read the letter here - ( or here my copy) ) from Scottsdale attorney Glenn Bacal accuses Canecchia of "unlawfully misappropriating" the university's mascot and selling a "counterfeit product." If the brewery doesn't stop using the Sun Devil name, the university will sue for triple damages because previous requests to stop using the name were ignored, Bacal wrote.

"It's just a local beer . . . I was absolutely floored when I got the letter," Canecchia said. He announced this week that he will soon stop calling his brew Sun Devil Ale and is asking patrons to help him find a new name.

Canecchia said he didn't think his beer would bring a fight from ASU because more than a dozen local businesses have been using the Sun Devil name including a car repair chain, a pool company, a pest control firm, an insurance office and even a liquor store.

And he is angry that ASU wouldn't negotiate a licensing agreement that would let him keep the name.

Terri Shafer, associate vice president in the office of public affairs at ASU, said Sun Devil is a registered trademark that is protected and controlled by the university. ASU could lose rights to the mascot's name and image if it doesn't control it, she said.

Historically, the university has allowed businesses to use the name on a selective basis. Some of those businesses were started by alumni and owners requested permission. ASU takes into consideration whether the firms' products and services support or harm the university's image, Shafer said.

"One category we never allow is alcoholic beverages," she said. "Most of our undergraduates are under 21 years old and that really sends the wrong message."

However, for nearly 25 years, the family-owned Sun Devil Liquors in Mesa has successfully resisted requests by ASU to change the name, said owner Lori Eccles.

She said the family patented the store name in 1985 and informed ASU of that document when they requested a name change years ago. The liquor store uses a devil logo that is different from the university's Sparky image.

Shafer said ASU hasn't tried to force Sun Devil Liquors to change its name because the business doesn't use the school colors, isn't near the university and makes no other associations with the school.

Owners have been told not to expand the use of the mascot or attempt any associations with ASU.

"We are monitoring their use of the name," Shafer said.

Although both the brewery and liquor store sell alcoholic beverages, Shafer said the use of Sun Devil is more objectionable in the brewery's case because it is on a drink.

"When we first brewed the Sun Devil Ale, the intention was to create a local hand-crafted product with a name that reflects our participation in the local community," Canecchia said. Changing all the promotional logo items from t-shirts and posters to beer taps will cost thousands but he said he decided not to fight "Michael Crowe's empire," referring to the ASU president.

And he joked about the potential for a new name: "Wildcat Ale" after the University of Arizona's mascot.