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Ongoing saga getting silly
World Wildlife Fund takes WWE back to court in UK asking for damages
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun


If you type WWF.com into your internet browser, you won't find a website dedicated to saving the Giant Panda. For the past two years, the controversial web domain has linked to a variety of wrestling-themed websites, despite a costly legal battle which was supposed to prevent that from being the case.

Welcome to the ongoing saga involving the World Wildlife Fund and the former World Wrestling Federation, now WWE.

In 2002, the Fund convinced a British court that sharing the WWF initials with the wrestling group was causing public confusion between the brands, particularly when it came to the WWF.com web address, which was owned by the Federation.

According to WWE lawyer Jerry McDevitt, steps were taken to pacify the environmental group. In an interview with the Calgary Sun last April, McDevitt detailed several concessions he proposed, including a hyper-link from the wrestling website to the charity's homepage as well as agreeing the WWF initials would never be used in the World Wildlife Fund's trademark font or style.

The Swiss-based charity demanded more and despite a jarring lack of evidence to support any claims of confusion in the marketplace, the judge agreed. The Federation was forced to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment, suffering major losses both financially and in terms of marketability and brand recognition.

The case appeared to be closed but the Fund came after WWE again in late 2003. Claiming further damages from the supposed public confusion, the animal charity threatened to jeopardize WWE's video game licensing deals but, according to WWE, indicated they would drop the campaign if WWE coughed up a friendly $90-million payoff.

WWE retaliated by going public.

"They are the charity, we are not," said WWE CEO Linda McMahon. "We will not pay extortion or send $90 million of our hard-earned money to Swiss bank accounts and intend to vigorously pursue our rights."

That brings us back to the courtroom for the final battle. In October, the Fund filed suit against WWE in Britian for punitive and compensatory damages. The Fund wants to be reimbursed for the years it claims it should have had exclusive use of the WWF initials.

As for the WWF.com web domain, it was re-registered to a Texas-based computer parts company, who turned it into an advertising-heavy wrestling site. Several news sources suggested the Fund was hypocritical for selling the address to another wrestling company but the charity never actually owned the domain.

"The court ordered the Federation to cancel its registration of the domain name," a Wildlife Fund spokesperson told the Sun earlier this year.

"The court order did not, however, require the Federation to hand the domain name over to WWF."

McDevitt confirmed rather than give the web address to the animal-rights people, WWE simply let the domain expire. It was then quickly snapped up by the first person to realize it was available -- in this case, a shrewd entrepreneur who took advantage of the easy advertising dollars with such a popular web address.

Still, if the Fund is so concerned about confusion in the marketplace, why are they allowing WWF.com to remain a wrestling site?

The whole thing seems ridiculous really.

I'd sure like to meet these people the Fund claims were affected by all the confusion with sharing the WWF initials.

Because anyone who thought they were saving the whales by ordering Survivor Series would probably be interested in the bridge I have to sell them.


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