Source: Star Tribune, Minnesota
It claims that a man misappropriated the name of an organization formerly run by the promoter.
Call it the legal version of a “Friday Night SmackDown!”
World Wrestling Entertainment, which produces a highly stylized television show by that name, filed suit in federal court Wednesday against a Minnesota man who it says is misappropriating the trademarks of an organization that was run by the “legendary Verne Gagne” from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Gagne is a Twin Cities promoter who’s often considered the grandfather of modern television wrestling theatrics.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. bought the trademarks to Gagne’s company in 2003. It has continued to market professional-wrestling-related goods and services under the AWA trademarks, according to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
The suit alleges that Dale R. Gagner, also known as Dale Gagne, “is a serial infringer” who first tried to misuse the AWA trademarks in 1990, and who is doing so again under a company called AWA Wrestling Entertainment Inc. According to its websites, Gagner’s company stages or sanctions wrestling matches under the AWA umbrella in smaller cities around the country. Next week, for example, it will sponsor an AWA Rush All-Star Wrestling match in Mankato.
AWA Wrestling Entertainment Inc. has an office in Rochester. A message left Thursday on its answering machine was not returned. State public records list two individuals by the name of Dale R. Gagner; one, age 37, lives in Rochester. Neither could be reached for comment Thursday.
The suit says that in 1990 the Minneapolis Boxing and Wrestling Club, which had owned the AWA marks at the time, won a similar infringement lawsuit against Gagner and others.
The current WWE lawsuit alleges that Gagner, in a “blatant attempt to trade on the name and popularity of Verne Gagne” and his association with the AWA, dropped the letter R from his surname to make it appear that they are related. Gagner is not related to Gagne, the suit says.
WWE says it has spent considerable sums marketing AWA’s name and products, including a historical home video and a cable-TV, on-demand service known as “WWE 24/7.”
Gagner is disregarding the earlier injunction against his use of the AWA trademarks and now owns and operates websites at www.awastars.com and www.myspace.com/awastars, the suit says.
“The clear intent of Defendants’ activities is to misrepresent that Defendants are the successors to and/or affiliated with the AWA wrestling promotion.” the suit says, adding that they have never been affiliated with WWE or the trademarked AWA wrestling promotion.
The suit, filed by the Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey & Whitney on behalf of WWE, charges Gagner and AWA Wrestling Entertainment with trademark infringement, unfair competition and cybersquatting under the federal Lanham Act, and with deceptive trade practices under Minnesota law.
WWE wants a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from using the trademarks or the awastars.com Internet domain name; all profits resulting from the alleged infringement; legal fees and expenses, and other unspecified damages.