Huge Extensive Update - Martha Hart Vs. WWE Lawsuit
* In regard to Hart's claims that WWE has "impermissibly appropriate[d] Owen James Hart s name [and], likeness and that such unauthorized use of Owen James Hart s name or likeness or other Original Intellectual Property . . . falsely represents that they have been endorsed, sponsored, or approved by the Estate of Owen Hart and the Owen Hart Foundation", WWE noted that at no time has the Owen Hart Foundation been referred to or mentioned in any of their 37 DVDs featuring Owen Hart matches, "let alone in some false or misleading way." So, there could be no false representation on WWE's part. WWE also noted that any reference to Owen Hart on their DVDs would be protected under the First Amendment.
"The DVD and the other videos are clearly expressive works, and no contention is made to the contrary in the First Amended Complaint. Owen s life is discussed in the DVD by others who knew him, including Hart Family members. Unquestionably, there is a connection between his name and the work. Likewise, the Plaintiff makes no allegation of an explicit statement by WWE on or in connection with the other DVDs that the Estate or the Foundation endorses, sponsors or approves those DVDs. Indeed, there is no allegation that either is even mentioned by WWE. Moreover, nothing about the explicit references to Owen in connection to the DVD or other videos is alleged to be false or misleading in any way, shape, fashion or form. To the contrary, Plaintiff does not dispute that all of WWE s packaging accurately describe the contents and that Owen's recorded performances are, in fact, depicted in any DVD on which his name appears on the product packaging. Accordingly, the truthful references to Owen in connection with the artistic works of WWE are absolutely protected under the First Amendment and are not actionable under the Lanham Act."
The Lanham Act prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising. Hart is claiming WWE's usage of Owen Hart has violated the Act in regard to the Owen Hart Foundation.
* In regard to Martha Hart's claims that WWE should not be allowed to use Owen Hart's name on WWE DVD packaging, WWE responded, "Once again, it is significant that no allegation is made in the FAC that Owen s name or likeness was used on product packaging of DVDs in which he did not appear. Instead, Plaintiff now belatedly claims that the WWE cannot use Owen's name or likeness on the packaging on DVDs even to truthfully inform consumers that the DVD contains recorded performances of Owen."
WWE noted that any reference to Owen on packaging was made to accurately advertise the inclusion of his matches on those DVD releases and that those DVDs prominently featured WWE's name and logo, leaving no question as to the source of the material, so there could be no confusion with the Owen Hart Foundation.
WWE also noted that in regard to photographs Martha Hart was calling into question, WWE owns the rights to any photos taken at their events and Hart did not own the rights to any childhood photos of Hart that were used on the DVD and/or its packaging at the time the DVD was produced and released. WWE also noted that Martha filed copyright claims on two Christmas photographs used in the DVD two weeks after the lawsuit was filed. Thus, her claims were without merit.
WWE also noted that under law, no one has the exclusive right to tell another person's life story, which would give them the same rights, as any other media source or broadcast outlet, to tell their version of Owen's life.