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World Wrestling sues promoter

World Wrestling Entertainment has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court against a Minnesota man who is allegedly misappropriating the trademarks of an organization that was run by the "legendary Vern Gagne" from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Last update: April 26, 2007 – 1:02 PM

World Wrestling Entertainment has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court against a Minnesota man who is allegedly misappropriating the trademarks of an organization that was run by the "legendary Vern Gagne" from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Gagne is a Twin Cities promoter who's often considered the grandfather of modern television wrestling theatrics.

World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. and its associated WWE Libraries Inc., collectively know as WWE, bought the trademarks to Gagne's company in 2003. It has continued to market professional wrestling-related goods and services under the AWA trademarks, including a video titled "The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA," according to the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

The suit alleges that Dale R. Gagner, also known as Dale Gagne, "is a serial infringer" who first tried to misuse the AWA trademarks in 1990, and who is doing so again under a company called AWA Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

Minnesota business records list AWA Wrestling Entertainment Inc. at a Rochester Post Office box. A message left Thursday morning on the company's answering machine was not immediately returned. State public records list two individuals by the name of Dale R. Gagner; one, age 37, lives in Rochester. Neither could be reached for comment Thursday.

The suit says that in 1990, the Minneapolis Boxing and Wrestling Club, which had owned the AWA marks at the time, filed a similar infringement lawsuit against Gagner and others.

According to that suit, Gagner had worked as an independent contractor promoting wrestling events for the club, but he was fired when the club owners learned that he had promoted an AWA event without their knowledge. The court enjoined Gagner and his co-defendants from infringing on the AWA trademarks.

The current WWE lawsuit alleges that Gagner, in a "blatant attempt to trade on the name and popularity of Verne Gagne" and his association with the AWA, dropped the letter R from his surname to make it appear that they are related. Gagner is not related to Gagne, the suit says.

WWE says it has spent considerable sums marketing AWA's name and products, including a historical home video and a cable-TV, on-demand service known as "WWE 24/7." It markets the products through a website at www.wwe.com.

Gagner is disregarding the earlier injunction against his use of the AWA trademarks and now owns and operates websites at www.awastars.com and www.myspace.com/awastars, the suit says.

"The clear intent of Defendants' activities is to misrepresent that Defendants are the successors to and/or affiliated with the AWA wrestling promotion." the suit says, adding that the defendants have never been affiliated with WWE or the trademarked AWA wrestling promotion.

The suit charges Gagner and AWA Wrestling Entertainment with trademark infringement, unfair competition and cybersquatting under the federal Lanham Act, and with deceptive trade practices under Minnesota law. It seeks a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from using the trademarks or the awastars.com Internet domain name; all profits resulting from the alleged infringement; legal fees and expenses and other unspecified damages.

Dan Browning is at 612-673-4493
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