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ANTHEM ONCE AGAIN ATTEMPTS TO HAVE JEFF JARRETT'S LAWSUIT AGAINST THEM DISMISSED, COMPLETE DETAILS

By Mike Johnson on 2019-03-15 14:04:00

Anthem Entertainment and its subsidiaries filed a flurry of motions on Thursday  3/13 in the U.S. District Middle District of Tennessee, requesting yet again that the latest, amended lawsuit brought against them by Jeff Jarrett and his company Global Force Entertainment be dismissed.

In the motion, Anthem argued that Jarrett and GFE have failed to state an “adequate claim” of copyright infringement because they never registered the copyrights on the Global Force Wrestling Amped! footage before filing the lawsuit against Anthem.  They are also arguing that since Jeff Jarrett himself authorized the usage of that footage during the time he was Chief Creative Officer for Impact, he granted them a license for the content and the usage of his name and likeness.  They are also again asserting that they own the trademark and copyright on “Jeff Jarrett” after they took over Impact Wrestling and the ownership of those trademarks were transferred into their ownership.  They also deny that they have abandoned that trademark, therefore Jarrett cannot petition the court to have it awarded back to his ownership.

The latest amended lawsuit from Jarrett and GFE has alleged that Impact and 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.  The lawsuit also claimed 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.”

Anthem Sports Entertainment Corp., one of the defendants, filed a motion yesterday as well, once again attempting to get the court to dismiss them from the case.  In the motion, Anthem Sports (as we will refer to them from this point on) argued they are simply a Canadian holding company that has no day to day operations beyond ownership of several subsidiaries that are Anthem-related brands.  It once again argued it does no business in Tennessee and “does not target” residents of that State for business, basically arguing that since they are a Canadian company with zero connections to where the court is location, the court holds zero power over them and they shouldn’t be included with the legal action Jarrett has taken against them because there’s no plausible connection or reason for them to be include.  They also again argue that Anthem Sports is a completely different entity from Anthem Wrestling, which was created when Anthem opted to call in the debt Dixie Carter had run up with their company, usurping Impact from Carter - and that Jarrett and GFE fail to differentiate between the two entities in their lawsuit.

The 3/14 filing notes, “The two companies have different purposes, corporate missions, employees, locations, and management. The two entities maintain separate books, tax returns and financial statements, and neither entity exerts control over the daily affairs of the other.”

The filing again utilizes an October 2018 statement from Ed Nordholm, stating that Anthem Wrestling was formed “in order to acquire assets of an entity called TNA Entertainment, LLC when Fight Media foreclosed on certain loans to that entity.”  Nordholm’s statement notes that Anthem Wrestling has 15 employees and 50 contractor and that Anthem Sports does not dictate their day to day business activities.

In yet another filing yesterday brought by BOTH Anthem Sports and Anthem Wrestling, they jointly argued that the lawsuit is a result of a “failed merger” between Anthem Wrestling and GFE. 

The filing noted, “Anthem Wrestling and Mr. Jarrett entered into discussions wherein GFE would merge into Anthem Wrestling in exchange for Mr. Jarrett receiving an officer-level position with a large salary, a job for Mr. Jarrett’s wife, and an equity interest in Anthem Wrestling. The plan was to use Mr. Jarrett and his extensive experience in the wrestling business to help grow and differentiate the IMPACT! Wrestling brand that Anthem had recently acquired. Mr. Jarrett would bring to the deal his GLOBAL FORCE WRESTLING and GFW brands and 16 episodes of wrestling content that he had produced some two years earlier but had thus far 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, Mr. 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.”

Anthem noted that all of the GFW Amped! content was post-produced, planned and distributed as four PPV specials while Jarrett served as The Chief Creative Officer.  After Jarrett was released from the company, a final GFW PPV aired.  Anthem noted that things did not work out, leading to Jarrett’s exit and “The sale and marketing of the Amped Content was not successful and did not turn a profit.” 

Anthem noted that when Jarrett signed an agreement to come work for the company in advance of the merger, “The Term Sheet provided that as Chief Creative Officer, Mr. Jarrett was responsible for all wrestling operations of the Company and would have “overall responsibility and full authority” for “ensuring timely and efficient production of programming to meet the Company’s obligations under its distribution agreements to produce content for television broadcast and PPV airings, content for the Company’s digital distribution channels, [and] performance of live events.  In other words, Mr. Jarrett was to be the Anthem Wrestling employee in charge of the content it would sell.  This relationship was well known as evidenced by the June 2017 press release in which Anthem Wrestling announced that it had reached an agreement with GFE and Mr. Jarrett wherein it would acquire GFE and that Jarrett would join Anthem Wrestling as a member of its board of managers, equity owner, and Chief Creative Officer.”

So, Anthem is again arguing that Jarrett is suing them over content and materials he was in charge of making the decisions about when he was working for their company.  They are also arguing that since Jarrett had the “ultimate responsibility” regarding wrestling content and gave Anthem the GFW tapes as part of their agreement, “there can be no doubt that Mr. Jarrett provided the content at the request of Anthem Wrestling and that he intended that Anthem Wrestling use and distribute the content, using Plaintiffs’ trademarks.  Moreover, because Mr. Jarrett granted this license in exchange for his salary and the promise of the anticipated merger, it is supported by consideration and is irrevocable.”

Anthem also again pointed out that in a GFW trademark filing that utilized photo proof of the GFW DVD sold by Impact Wrestling, that Jarrett claimed in this action is copyright and trademark infringement committed by Defendants.   Yet, under “penalty of perjury”, Jarrett swore that this very same use was use that inured to his benefit--in other words--use by a licensee. This SOU is a sworn admission that Defendant Anthem Wrestling’s alleged use of the Amped Content and GFW trademarks was as a valid licensee."

They are also arguing that since Jarrett and GFE never copyrighted or trademarked their content, they cannot do it retroactively and claim damages.  Since they have registered or been refused a registration, by the letter of the law, Anthem argues, there is nothing for Jarrett and GFE to claim.

On the ownership of the Jeff Jarrett trademark, Anthem noted, “Plaintiff cannot simultaneously sue Defendants for use of Jarrett’s name and likeness while also alleging that Defendants have abandoned use of the JEFF JARRETT trademark.  Moreover, contrary to Plaintiffs’ conclusory and contradictory allegations in Count XIII, Anthem Wrestling owns a vast catalog of wrestling entertainment content that includes Mr. Jarrett’s name, image and likeness that it is continuing to offer for sale in interstate commerce.”

Jarrett’s side would have the opportunity to argue against the motion before the court makes any ruling.

The legal filings have revealed that Anthem has deleted all of the master GFW Amped! tapes from their servers (which is insane, given it was evergreen content that cost nothing to maintain and would only increase the overall worth of their video library; one has to wonder what other material has been discarded from the video library since Anthem took control of the company) while Jarrett has gone on to take an executive position within World Wrestling Entertainment’s creative department.

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