At Lager-Heads

Harvey McElhannon sells Diamondback Beer, and was the first to file for that trademark. Now Jerry Colangelo and Major League Baseball want him eighty-sixed.

But Deborah Lyon, a trademark attorney with the Phoenix law firm of Brown & Bain, says courts tend to side with the consumer in deciding trademark cases. If a court thinks consumers are being "fooled" into thinking a product is affiliated with a company it isn't, the party doing the fooling usually loses.

Although the logos of Diamondback Beer and the Arizona Diamondbacks bear almost no resemblance to one another, it is virtually impossible to predict whether a court would decide they are similar enough to confuse consumers.

No one in this . . . well . . . this brewing conflict possesses a crystal ball, McElhannon least of all. So how will it play out?

Major League Baseball could continue its attempts to intimidate McElhannon, although threatening letters have had little effect on his beer-selling ways so far.

Or baseball could roll over and try to buy the trademark from McElhannon, just to avoid the expense and inconvenience of a legal fight. But he says that he wouldn't sell, that despite his distaste for attorneys, he truly is in for the long haul.

Or baseball, Miller Brewing and the Arizona Diamondbacks may decide to sue, which could keep McElhannon tied up in court for years.

Regardless of how much grit Harvey McElhannon has--and almost regardless of whether he is the rightful owner of the Diamondback Beer trademark--if it comes to protracted court action, there doesn't seem to be much doubt which side will have the experience, tactical expertise, money and--most of all--lawyers to win a snaky Arizona beer war.

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