Jeff Jarrett & GFW sue Anthem (Impact Wrestling)
Impact Wrestling founder Jeff Jarrett and his company, Global Force Entertainment LLC filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Impact Wrestling owner Anthem Sports & Entertainment Corp. and its subsidiary Anthem Wrestling Exhibitions, LLC (which contains Impact Wrestling) on 8/10 in the United States District Court of Tennessee.
The 26-page lawsuit alleges that Anthem has:
*Violated state and federal trademark infringements in relation to GFE.
*Violated Jeff Jarrett’s exclusive property rights to his own name, photograph, and other likeness.
*That Anthem has used “a reproduction, counterfeit, copy, or colorable imitation of the GLOBAL FORCE WRESTLING and GFW trademarks” in commerce, therefore they are in violation of the Lanham Act, which prohibits trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising.
*The lawsuit also claims violation of the Lanham Act through alleged “acts of unfair competition” that were done “with the intent to deceive the public into believing that goods and services offered or sold by Defendants are made by, approved by, sponsored by, or affiliated with GFE.”
*That Anthem has “caused products and/or services to enter interstate commerce designated with variations” of the Global Force Wrestling and GFW trademarks. The filing claimed, “Defendants’ use of said designation and other representations constitute a false designation of origin which is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of Defendants with GFE and as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of such goods and services by GFE.” This allegation would be an alleged violation of the Lanham Act.
*That Anthem was involved in “Unfair Competition in Violation of Tennessee Common Law”, alleging, “GFE and Defendants compete for a common pool of customers. As alleged herein, Defendants have engaged in unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent conduct, which is likely to cause, if it has not already, customer confusion in violation of Tennessee common law.”
The lawsuit also claims that Anthem has unjustly enriched themselves through their actions and violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, claiming, “Defendants have violated and, upon information and belief, continue to violate GFE’s exclusive rights in the GFW Amped content and the 16 associated copyrights, including, but not limited to, the right to reproduce, right to prepare and sell derivative works, and right to vend by copying, publishing, distributing, and publicly displaying in the marketplace in this District, and in all marketplaces reached by the Internet, videos that were copied or otherwise derived from the GFW Amped content.”
The filing claims that Anthem approached Jarrett and GFE in October 2016 to initial discussions about merging Jarrett’s company with Anthem Sports “in exchange for membership and equity in Anthem Sports” that would also have included hiring Jarrett as Chief Creative Officer. The two sides signed a non-disclosure agreement on 12/9/16.
Jarrett signed a consultant deal with Anthem in January 2017 and at that point “Mr. Jarrett provided the only set of masters for the 16 one-hour episodes of GFW Amped content to Defendants”, who the lawsuit claims still have the only copy of the masters.
Jarrett and Anthem signed a deal in May 2017 regarding Jarrett coming on officially as the Chief Creative Officer of Anthem Wrestling as well as an agreement regarding a merger for Anthem to acquire GFE, including ownership of the GFW Amped content. That merger was publicly announced by Anthem at that time.
As has been well documented, Jarrett took a leave of absence from the company in September 2017, followed by the public announcement that Anthem had let him go the following month. All of that was in the wake of personal problems that led to Jarrett going into rehab with the assistance of WWE. Jarrett was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame earlier this year.
In the lawsuit, Jarrett alleges that after he was terminated by Anthem, the announced merger between GFE and Anthem never went through and that “despite Anthem Wrestling’s acknowledgement of GFE’s ownership of all GFW Amped content, Defendants reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, offered for sale, and sold the GFW Amped content without providing any compensation or royalties to GFE or Mr. Jarrett.”
The lawsuit points out that Anthem promoted several PPVs under the GFW Amped name (utilizing content that was originally designed to be a GFW weekly TV series that had been taped in Las Vegas), airing them from July 2017 through December 2017.
The lawsuit also alleges., “Upon information and belief, Defendants continue to monetize the GFW Amped content as pay-per-view, premium television, streaming, and other viewing options on a worldwide scale,” specifically mentioning the Global Wrestling App and DVDs sold via the Impact Wrestling website.
As of this writing, Impact’s website is still currently selling the GFW DVDs.
The lawsuit claims that Anthem does not have a license to use the GFW Amped content, GFE’s trademarks or Jeff Jarrett’s name or image “in connection to GFW Amped content.”
The lawsuit also claims that Jeff Jarrett and GFE have each suffered “irreparable harm and loss of goodwill”, which cannot be “completely remedied” in part because “given the nature of the advertising and promoting the loss of identifiable consumers is not readily obtainable.”
GFE and Jarrett are seeking an injunction that would prevent Anthem from copying, distributing, offering for sale, selling, and displaying the GFW Amped content. The injunction, if it is issued, would also prevent Anthem from using the Global Force Wrestling and GFW words and logo and anything similar, including “but not limited to, Global Wrestling Network, GWN, and the GWN logo” – which means that if Jarrett and GFE are successful, Anthem would have to immediately suspend the operations of their streaming subscription service under its current Global Wrestling Network name.
The lawsuit also asks the court to order Anthem and anyone associated with them to delete or destroy any copies of the GFW content, with the exception of the masters, which are to be returned to GFE.
GFE is seeking “an award of punitive and/or treble damages for at least three times the amount of Defendants’ profits or GFE’s damages, whichever is greater, due to the nature of Defendants’ wanton and willful conduct.”
Jarrett and GFE have requested a jury trial.