WWF vs WWF: The trademark war
LONDON (AP) -- In this corner, The Rock. In that corner ... the Monarch butterfly?
The World Wide Fund for Nature, best known for its efforts to protect the panda and other endangered animal species, has gone to the mat with the World Wrestling Federation over the use of the initials WWF.
The federation, which uses www.wwf.com as its Web site address and inscribes the initials on hundreds of branded products, denies any wrongdoing.
The wildlife fund accuses the wrestling federation of breaking an agreement the two sides reached in 1994 over the use of the logo and trademark. It has filed a lawsuit in London seeking legal enforcement of what it insists are its trademark rights.
"The explosion in Web use and satellite and cable television means their use of the WWF logo is more widespread than it was," fund spokeswoman Anita Neville said Wednesday. "It's a long-running tussle. We felt that this was the correct time to take it up."
Jerry McDevitt, an attorney for the Stamford, Conn.-based wrestling federation, said the 1994 agreement allowed both organizations to use the WWF initials and to operate in "peaceful coexistence." He said the agreement never addressed the use of the initials on the Internet.
"Nothing in the agreement ever dealt with the Internet because the Internet wasn't anything back then," McDevitt said.
The fund predates the wrestling federation, and it registered its black and white panda logo with the letters WWF when it was founded in 1961. The fund changed its name 14 years ago, adding to the confusion. In the United States, it's still known by its original name, the World Wildlife Fund, which has the rights to the address, www.wwf.org. Elsewhere, it goes by Worldwide Fund for Nature.
Neville, a fund spokeswoman in Britain, argued that recognition of her organization's initials is part of what makes it effective as an international charity. The fund, headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, filed a lawsuit in April.
"It would be that same as if McDonald's were challenging someone over the use of the golden arches," she said.
But McDevitt said there is little chance anyone would confuse the two organizations. If the wrestling federation were forced to change its wwf.com Web address, he said, it would cause massive confusion.
"All these millions and millions of fans -- if the environmental group had its way -- would type in wwf.com, and instead of seeing everything they've seen for years ... are going to be directed to their site and learn about panda bears and whatever they're doing to save the world," McDevitt said.
The fund, whose Internet address is www.panda.org, backs conservation projects in some 100 countries. Among the creatures it's working to protect is the rare golden lion tamarin of Brazil, together with better-known species of elephant, tiger and rhinoceros.
In Mexico, the fund is trying to protect and enlarge a sanctuary for the migratory Monarch butterfly.
Neville said she doesn't expect to receive a verdict in the lawsuit until next April.
LONDON -- The World Wildlife Fund, best known for its efforts to protect the panda and other endangered animal species, won its court battle Friday against the World Wrestling Federation over the use of the initials WWF.
Justice Robin Jacob ruled that the wrestling group had breached a 1994 agreement between the two sides that limited its use of the initials. In a written judgment, Jacob said it was understandable the fund did not want to be associated with the wrestling group. "Some would say its (the federation's) glorification of violence is somewhat unsavory," Jacob said.
Jacob acknowledged it might cost the federation, famous for musclebound wrestlers such as The Rock and Undertaker, up to $50 million to change its logo, but said some of its arguments in court had been "hopeless" or "astonishingly poor."
The wildlife fund argued that worldwide exposure for wrestling had increased due to television and the Internet, leading to more widespread use of the initials by the federation. The two sides had almost identical Web site addresses.
The wildlife fund (www.wwf.org) accused the wrestling federation (www.wwf.com) of breaking their agreement and filed a lawsuit seeking enforcement of its trademark rights.
Anita Neville, spokeswoman for the wildlife fund -- known outside of the United States as the Worldwide Fund for Nature -- said the judgment "means that our name and reputation is upheld."
Jacob said the wresting organization, whose full corporate name is World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc., will be permitted a limited use of the initials in the United States, but will no longer be able to use that Web site address.
The Stamford, Conn.-based wrestling federation expected the decision based on the judge's comments during oral arguments, said spokesman Judd Everhart.
"We're not surprised by today's ruling," Everhart said. "But we think it's erroneous and we intend to appeal."
Everhart said he was not sure when the appeal would be filed. He was not sure what action the company would take regarding its Web site, though it remained active Friday.
A further court session was set for October to determine costs and damages to be awarded.