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JEFF JARRETT VS. ANTHEM LAWSUIT UPDATE

By Mike Johnson on 2019-05-02 09:00:00

Anthem Sports & Entertainment and its subsidiary, Anthem Wrestling, filed motions on 4/23 with the United States District Court of The Middle District of Tennessee, explaining their argument as to why the most recently filed version of Jeff Jarrett and Global Wrestling Entertainment (the parent company of Global Force Wrestling) should be dismissed from court.

In the first motion, Anthem noted that Jarrett and GWE “have now filed three complaints in this case and still have failed to properly allege a basis for diversity jurisdiction against Anthem Wrestling. Moreover, Plaintiffs have served at least three sets of written discovery and Defendants have produced in excess of 12,000 pages of documents in this case”, yet they have not been able to prove that Anthem falls under the proper jurisdiction of the court.

Anthem is also arguing that since GWE and Jarrett failed to copyright and trademark their GFW Amped! TV tapes and since Jarrett provided a license for Anthem to use the tapes, there can be no trademark infringement.  Anthem is arguing that by law, Jarrett & GWE should have filed their copyrights or have been refused registration in order to claim copyright infringement in court.  Since neither has happened – as Jarrett does not have physical possession of the GFW master tapes, which Impact has already admitted they deleted – Anthem is arguing that claim can not go forward in court.

Anthem argue that if there is any issue for the court to hear, it is a potential breach of contract claim.

On Jeff Jarrett’s argument that Anthem are using his name and image illegally and that they need to relinquish the trademark on the “Jeff Jarrett” name, which they acquired as part of the assets of Impact Wrestling when they seized control of the company from Dixie Carter, Anthem noted, “Plaintiffs attempt to make the convoluted argument that Jeff Jarret is a “real person” and not just a “character” like Hulk Hogan or the “Rock.” This is immaterial. Jeff Jarrett authorized the use of his name and likeness because he was the Chief Content Officer and the Anthem Wrestling employee in charge of deciding what content would be used. He selected and pushed for the use of his own image and likeness. This alone is authorization and forecloses him from arguing that Defendants’ use was without permission.”

So, Anthem is saying that Jarrett cannot hold them accountable for decisions he himself made while working for their company.  They again argued that they legally hold the Jarrett trademark and noted, “Accordingly, Defendant’s use of Jeff Jarrett’s image and likeness was authorized, regardless of whether the permission was obtained by trademark assignment or because Jarrett himself provided permission for use of his image and likeness as the employee in charge of making such decisions.”

Jarrett’s former role in Impact Wrestling as the Chief Creative Officer was also part of the latest attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed.  On claimed that Anthem has infringed on his name and rights, Anthem responded, “Plaintiff Jeff Jarrett was the Chief Content Officer for Anthem Wrestling, which means he was the employee in charge of deciding what content to use in its programming. He made the decision to use the content, his own image and likeness, and the trademarks about which he is now suing. There can be no serious question that his decision to exploit this intellectual property as an officer of Anthem Wrestling amounts to an implied license for Anthem Wrestling to use it and all his claims to the contrary should be dismissed. Moreover, Plaintiff Jeff Jarrett filed a statement of use with the USPTO acknowledging that the use of which he now complains was a licensed use. All the infringement-related claims must be dismissed.”

The statement Anthem refers to was an attempt to copyright GFW using an image of a Impact-released GFW DVD cover to show the name and logo was in use in business.  A previous motion filed  by Anthem noted that Global Force Wrestling LLC's own trademark filing for the GFW initials, dated 3/9/18 and signed by Jeff Jarrett, featured photo usage of the GFW initials, meant to provide a publicly available usage of the letters to support the ownership of the trademark, was actually the cover art for the Impact Wrestling DVD release of GFW Amped! "to substantiate his claim that Global Force Wrestling was entitled to the registration for use on DVD.”  So, Anthem has been arguing that Jarrett himself has already provided proof that Impact had permission to utilize the logo and name, because he himself was using that usage to support trademarking the GFW initials – something the court has yet to rule on.

Anthem also shot down Jarrett’s previous claim that they have abandoned the “Jeff Jarrett” trademark and have no plans for its uses, responding, “Moreover, the JEFF JARRETT trademark was originally obtained when Jeff Jarrett wrestled for TNA Entertainment. Jeff Jarrett explicitly consented, in writing, to TNA obtaining a trademark for the mark JEFF JARRETT. TNA Entertainment was acquired by Anthem Wrestling and TNA validly assigned all of its marks to Anthem at that time, including the JEFF JARRETT mark. Accordingly, Anthem Wrestling holds a valid and existing trademark in the name JEFF JARRETT and Plaintiffs’ claims of third-party use and the like are irrelevant and without merit. If the WWE claims superior rights to Defendants’ assignors (which Defendants obviously deny), that is the WWE’s claim to raise. They have not done so. Plaintiff simply cannot escape the fact that Jeff Jarrett consented to use of his name as a trademark and Defendants are the valid assignees of that right. This fact abrogates his image and likeness claims and Plaintiffs have cited no law to the contrary.”

In regard to a claim by Jarrett and GWE that Anthem has illegally attached evidence to previous court motions and documents, Anthem argued that everything they have brought forth can be publicly researched and discovered, therefore nothing was brought into the court that would be out of bounds.

The most recent motion comes after attempted settlement talks between the two sides failed to resolve the issues on 4/12.

As previously covered by PWInsider.com, Jarrett and GWE’s latest 33-page amended lawsuit alleges Anthem has prevented Jarrett and GFE from filing copyrights on the GFW Amped! TV footage with the amended lawsuit noting, "The last remaining step in the registration process is submission of deposit copies, which GFE cannot provide to the Copyright Office due to Defendants’ unlawful possession and/or deletion of the only master recordings of the 16 one-hour GFW Amped videos.  Defendants admit that the master recordings were deleted while in their custody and no longer exist."

On 11/30/18, Anthem, in responded to a Jarrett request to produce certain documents and information stated, "The sixteen one-hour Episodes of Global Force Wrestling Amped content sought in this question no longer exist.  It was deleted in the normal course of business, long prior to the onset of this litigation, in order to free up storage space on Anthem Wrestling's systems."

GWE and Jarrett have valued each of the 16 hours of TV footage at $300,000 per episode, meaning they allege losses worth $4.8 million connected to the loss of the masters.

As noted above, Jarrett is also alleging Impact and Anthem have 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.”

The lawsuit also alleges 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. 

It also alleges 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.”

In the latest Amended lawsuit, Jarrett noted Anthem has no "intent" in hiring him again (which would be technically impossible anyway since Jarrett now works for WWE on the Creative Team and as a Producer and performer), that Anthem, "is not currently providing any entertainment services, namely wrestling exhibits and performances by a professional wrestler and entertainer, under Mr. Jarrett’s name" and that "Anthem Wrestling is not providing wrestling news and information via a global computer network under Mr. Jarrett’s name."  The lawsuit also notes that Anthem is no currently using Jarrett's name for action figures or toys and has "and has no intent to resume such use."  Anthem responded to those claims in the most recent motion, as noted above.

Anthem Sports has also previously claimed that when Jeff Jarrett signed a non-disclosure agreement with the company during the time period he was coming in to work for them as the Chief Creative Officer, Anthem insisted upon and received a clause that any issues that arose legally would fall under New York law, noting, " Even if one believes Plaintiffs’ allegation that their claims do not relate to arise from this NDA as one is required to do at this juncture of the proceedings, these allegations actually establish that Anthem Sports deliberately did not avail itself of doing business in the forum.  Obviously, if Anthem Sports initiated merger discussions pursuant to this NDA as Plaintiffs allege, it did not anticipate being hauled into court here. In fact, it expressly bargained for and obtained a contractual provision that it could not be sued in Tennessee. In light of the fact that the Complaint expressly establishes that the parties agreed that Anthem Sports could not be sued in Tennessee, these allegations cannot establish that Anthem Sports has purposely availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Tennessee for purposes of the specific jurisdiction analysis. Further, Anthem Sports asserts that this bargained-for provision that was reached as a pre-requisite for its merger discussions with Plaintiff--the facts that give rise to Plaintiffs’ purported claims--should be dispositive of the “purposeful an ailment” issue. Anthem Sports expressly bargained for and obtained the right not to be hauled into court in Tennessee."

So, they argued and continue to argue that Jarrett cannot technically sue them in the State of Tennessee to begin with based on the language of the agreement that he signed with the company - an agreement that as of this writing, remains sealed by the court.

In another previous filing, Anthem Sports and Anthem Wrestling jointly stated, "This action is the aftermath of a failed merger between two wrestling entertainment companies" and for the first time on record, gave their side of the story, stating Jarrett was actually the one in charge of the release of the GFW content and that material did not even turn a profit for the company, claiming, "Jarrett entered into discussions wherein Jarrett’s company would merge into Anthem Wrestling in exchange for an officer-level position with a large salary, a job for Jarrett’s wife, and an equity interest in Anthem Wrestling. The plan was to use Jarrett and his extensive experience in the wrestling business to help grow and differentiate the IMPACT! Wrestling brand that Anthem had recently acquired. Jarrett would bring to the deal his GLOBAL FORCE WRESTLING and GFW brands and 16 episodes of wrestling content (the “Amped Content”) that he had produced some two years earlier but thus far had been unable to monetize. The parties planned to complete and finalize the Amped Content, add voiceover, and perform the other necessary post-production work in order to get it in shape to broadcast and sell. In order to carry out these plans, Jeff Jarrett was made Chief Creative Officer of Anthem Wrestling effective April of 2017 and given complete authority over its wrestling operations and the content that the company would create, market, and sell.  Under Mr. Jarrett’s watch as Chief Creative Officer, the Amped Content was packaged as five different PPV broadcasts and was marketed with both the GFW and IMPACT! trademarks. The Amped Content was also packaged as DVDs and sold on-line. Also during Mr. Jarrett’s tenure as Anthem Wrestling’s Chief Creative Officer, the company decided to use the phrase “Global Wrestling Network” as a descriptor for an Over-the-Top (“OTT”) application developed by Anthem Wrestling upon which wrestling content would be marketed.  As often happens, the parties’ merger plans did not work out as expected. Mr. Jarrett was terminated near the end of October 2017. The sale and marketing of the Amped Content was not successful and did not turn a profit. "

A June 2020 court date had been previously set for the lawsuit. 

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