Wrestlers Vow To Body Slam WWF Domain-Name Ruling

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Wrestlers Vow To Body Slam WWF Domain-Name Ruling

By Steven Bonisteel, Newsbytes
STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT, U.S.A.,
13 Aug 2001, 9:10 AM CST

World Wrestling Federation Entertainment [NYSE:WWF] has vowed to seek a rematch after a British High Court ruling that could force the sports entertainment company to hand its Internet address to the World Wildlife Fund.
The ruling from Justice Robin Jacob in London updates an international trademark dispute between the wrestlers and the environmentalists that flared after the wildlife fund said a 1994 pact over the use of the initials "WWF" outside the U.S. had been broken by the wrestling outfit.

Although the wrestling federation holds U.S. trademarks containing the initials "WWF," the wildlife fund complained that the Stamford, Conn.-based wrestling organization increasingly was using the initials internationally and that its WWF.com Web site has a global presence.

While the wrestling federation will retain limited rights to the use of "WWF" in the U.S., Justice Jacob said the organization's used of the inititals on the Internet and elsewhere internationally contravened the 1994 agreement.

Unless the wrestling federation appeals sooner, a hearing in October would determine the fate of the WWF.com domain and set any damages the federation might pay.

Ironically, the wrestling organization has already used its "WWF" trademarks in complaints to international arbitrators to claim at least six Internet addresses from so-called "cybersquatters."

Using a speedy alternative to lawsuits - a dispute resolution process created by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) - the wrestling federation has successfully laid claim to such addresses as iWWF.com, WWFShop.com, WWFAuction.com, WWFAuction.net, http://www.WF.com and WWFWCW.com.

In fact, the wrestling federation was the first trademark holder ever to win a case under ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). However, that dispute was over the domain WorldWrestlingFederation.com.

In the dispute last year over the domains WWFShop and IWWF.com, the wildlife fund entered the fray itself, suggesting that the alleged cybersquatter from the Netherlands who owned the domains was not infringing on the federation's trademarks, but on the fund's.

But an arbitrator for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ruled that he had to decide the case based on the rights of the wrestling organization and the domain holder who was hoping to sell the addresses at auction.

"Here ... the fund is not a party," arbitrator David Perkins ruled. "This panel must take the complainant's trademark rights as it finds them."

Perkins wrote that the panel agrees the domain names constitute trademark rights for the purpose of the UDRP. He said those rights remain in place until the fund, or anyone else, obtains an order barring the wrestling league from using its trademarks.

In a statement Friday, the wrestling federation said it would appeal the British High Court decision, and said it was "disappointed that the judge accepted the fund's justifications for these restraints without affording us a full trial and the right to question the fund on its need for these restrictions."

"We do not believe that the fund has, in any way, demonstrated that our use of the initials WWF has had any impact on the fund's activities," the statement said. "We do not believe there is confusion in the public's mind between the World Wrestling Federation and the World Wildlife Fund and the logos of the two organizations."

Outside the U.S., the fund is often known as the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

The World Wrestling Federation is at http://www.wwf.com .

The World Wildlife Fund is at: http://www.wwf.org .
 


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