Monday, October 8, 2007

To be Ric Flair, you gotta beat Ric Flair . . . in court. ran a story today entitled “Wrestler smacks S.C. car dealer with lawsuit” about a lawsuit filed by a World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) wrestler against a South Carolina car dealership.

On October 4, 2007, Richard Fliehr, better known to WWE fans as Ric “Nature Boy” Flair, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against Stivers Automotive of Columbia, Inc., the owner of a Columbia, South Carolina car dealership named Freedom Suzuki which allegedly used Flair's name, likeness and slogans in some of its car advertisements without Flair's permission (see Case Number 3:2007cv03315).

The car dealership allegedly used two of Flair’s famous catchphrases "Woooooo!" and "To be the man, you gotta beat the man!" One radio ad had a character named Captain Freedom saying “Whoeee ... To be the man you got to beat the man! Ric Flair was right all you other car dealers out there." Captain Freedom also told listeners to "Come check out me and the WWE" at the Colonial Center on Aug. 21, which was around the time when Flair was scheduled to appear at a WWE event at the Colonial Center. According to Flair’s lawyer, Stivers Automotive apparently contacted the WWE to get permission to use Flair’s name in their ads, but permission was denied.

Without seeing the complaint, its not clear if Flair is alleging Section 43(a) false designation of origin or a state-law based right of publicity filed in federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, which would explain why he is seeking actual and punitive damages of more than $75,000.

As most people familiar with the WWE (formerly WWF, which is an interesting trademark story of its own) know, Mr. Flair does not hold the trademark to his own name, or at least not the one under which he wrestles. That would be the intellectual property of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc., which holds the trademark RIC FLAIR for clothing, for various toy items, and, most importantly, for entertainment services, namely wrestling exhibits and performances by a professional wrestler and entertainer.

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