Conservationists Beat Pro Wrestlers

The Associated Press – August 10, 2001
By Ed Johnson

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.

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