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JEFF JARRETT & GFW VS. ANTHEM LAWSUIT UPDATE

By Mike Johnson on 2018-12-03 09:45:00

Jeff Jarrett and his company Global Wrestling Entertainment filed a response on 11/29 in the United States District Court of Tennessee to Anthem's motion attempting to extricate themselves from being bound under Tennessee law in the civil lawsuit Jarrett and GFE have brought against the company, alleging Anthem 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, that Anthem violated 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" and that Anthem "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", and 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.”

As previously reported by PWInsider.com, Anthem filed a motion arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over the myriad of companies related to Impact Wrestling.  In that motion, Anthem Sports broke down the different companies that Impact Wrestling falls under.  The motion noted that Anthem Sports itself is a "Canadian holding company that has no day to day operations other than the ownership of several subsidiaries that house the various Anthem brands. Its primary place of business is in Toronto, Canada" and that it does not do business in the state of Tennessee and that all content distribution of Anthem entities held by Anthem Sports are done through related companies or third-party licensing agreements.   Therefore, "The plaintiffs cannot plausibly allege facts sufficient to establish that this Court can assert personal jurisdiction over Anthem Sports in a manner that is consistent with the Due Process Clause." 

Jarrett and GWE's response on 11/29, pointed out a number of examples that they claim prove Anthem would indeed fall under Tennessee law, including:

*A June 2018 press release announcing Peter Einstein had joined Anthem Sports & Entertainment as CEO, listing Nashville as among the cities where the company held offices.

*A LinkedIn.com profile for Shane Emerson, the Director of International Content Distribution for Anthem Sports & Entertainment, listing Nashville as his location of business.

*Impact Wrestling's Twitter account, listing Nashville, TN as its location.

*Impact Wrestling's Instagram account, listing Nashville, TN as its location.

In their response, Jarrett and GWE argued: "Anthem Sports formed Anthem Wrestling Exhibitions, LLC (“Anthem Wrestling”), in Tennessee to acquire assets of TNA Entertainment, LLC (“TNA”), when Fight Network Group,  LLC, foreclosed on debts owed to it.. TNA, now owned by Anthem Sports, has since been rebranded as IMPACT! Wrestling, which continues to be based in Nashville, Tennessee. Anthem Sports has attempted to shield itself from personal jurisdiction by forming layers of entities to do its bidding and conducting no business in its own right while claiming it does no business whatsoever in Tennessee. This is precisely the type of avoidance of liability that the Tennessee Supreme Court has rejected. Gordon v. Greenview Hosp., Inc., Yet, Anthem Sports broadcasts and sells products via its subsidiaries and through the brands it holds globally including in Tennessee. It further formed Anthem Wrestling to acquire TNA on 
its behalf in Tennessee.  All entities owned by Anthem Sports, including Anthem Wrestling, engage in the same business enterprise – entertainment, with a distinct focus in sports.   At this stage before any exchange of discovery between the parties, these facts are sufficient to show a prima facie case of general personal jurisdiction."

They are also arguing that Anthem's actions would result in the company falling under Tennessee jurisdiction for this case, even if in general Anthem would not normally fall under their jurisdiction, arguing, "Anthem Sports broadcasts and sells products globally via its brands and subsidiaries, including in Tennessee. All entities owned by Anthem Sports, including Anthem Wrestling, 
engage in the same business enterprise – broadly speaking, entertainment with a distinct focus in sports. Anthem Sports formed Anthem Wrestling Exhibitions, LLC (“Anthem 
Wrestling”), in Tennessee to acquire assets of TNA Entertainment, LLC (“TNA”) based in Nashville, Tennessee, wen Anthem Sports’ entity Fight Network Group, LLC, foreclosed on 
debts owed to it.  TNA, now owned by Anthem Sports, has since been rebranded as IMPACT! Wrestling (First Amended Complaint, which continues to be based in Nashville, Tennessee.  Anthem Sports initiated negotiations with Plaintiffs, who are Tennessee residents, related to merging with GFE in exchange for membership and equity in Anthem Sports and hiring Mr. Jarrett as Chief Creative Officer for the wrestling portion of Anthem Sports.  Although this lawsuit is not brought under the contract or nondisclosure agreement provided by Plaintiffs for purposes of background, the negotiations pertaining to them are connected to the claims.  The only master recordings of 16 hours of GFW Amped content (the “Masters”) were provided to Defendants in anticipation of the merger but the term sheet made clear that Defendants did not own the Masters. When the merger failed, Defendants refused to return them and proceeded to wrongfully reproduce and distribute the GFW Amped content."

A jury trial date of 6/30/20 has been set in the case.

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