On today’s episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily, Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman sat down with “Gimmick Attorney” Mike Dockins. Dockins is an experienced patent and trademark attorney, and he explained what misconceptions pro wrestlers and fans may have about trademark laws.
“They don’t, nor would I expect them to. The layman doesn’t understand necessarily the standard for trademark infringement, and the standard is the similarity of the marks and the relatedness of the goods or services,” Dockins explained. “I like to point out, kind of tongue in cheek and poke the bear a little bit, with WWE that when they said ‘Tazz’ is different from ‘Taz’, well, that’s not the legal standard. That was just the line that they gave. It was BS.
“The legal standard is phonetics matter, even foreign languages matter. Not that there’s a foreign language equivalent to Taz but if you’re using the word ‘shadow’. I’m Mike ‘The Shadow’ Dockins, but then somebody else already has a trademark in Portuguese for ‘shadow’, whatever that is, those are legally the same. You can’t just assume that because you have one Z or two Z’s or a Z instead of an S or an intentional misspelling that it’s okay to use. It’s not. It’s not at all.
“They’re legally the same, and you could be stopped. ‘Rhino’ vs. ‘Rhyno’, that’s another one that WWE managed to pull off. It’s nonsense, right? It’s complete nonsense, but if you don’t know the standard, if you don’t have somebody looking out for you from a talent side, you wouldn’t know that, and they’re telling you, this is okay and here’s why. Oh, okay, they’re they’re not gonna mislead me. Well, I wouldn’t say that. In fact, they might mislead you.”
WWE have found themselves in many trademark disputes including over a “Stone Cold” trademark with Kansas City Chiefs star Chris Jones. Dockins gave his thoughts on what he thinks about WWE’s trademark practices.
“It depends on what hat I have to wear,” Dockins admitted. “I don’t represent them, obviously. I don’t like their practices, but I understand why they’ve made it their practice. ‘Hey, we built the brand. We built the name, therefore we own it.’ I get it. That makes sense in why you would want to protect it, but then holding on to it and doing nothing with it is such a waste, and it just causes issues for the talent, but we have seen time and time again, you got your fake Diesel.
“You got your fake Razor. It doesn’t work. Even replacing Doink, to an extent, didn’t work. Once Matt Bourne was gone, you bring in Ray Apollo, it just wasn’t the same, and people will tell you, you can tell the difference. Talented guys, that’s great but Matt Bourne really brought something to that character that Ray Apollo did not, and it’s never worked. Sin Cara, I guess, is another one. They replaced the guy under the hood. It’s just different.
“The brand, while WWE can own it, separate from the person, separate from the performer. You don’t have a brand without the performer. That position of their’s really only makes sense if it’s your Hulk Hogans, your Macho Mans, your Ultimate Warriors, your Andre the Giants… these sorts of people that have a name and legacy that will far outlive their life. But that’s not the case for the majority, or maybe not the majority, but certainly not the case for everyone, and so a lot of times, it seems like it’s somewhat out of spite.”
AEW have allowed talent to use their own names and file their own trademarks. Copyrighted music like “Cult of Personality”, “Wild Thing” and “Ruby Soho” have also been used by top talents, and Hausman asked Dockins if Tony Khan and AEW run any type of risk by being looser with IP.
“Not really, honestly, because the only risk he has is that, I’ll just pull a random name, Shawn Spears, let’s say Shawn Spears,” Dockins said. “If 10 years from now, if Shawn’s retired or moved on or doing whatever he’s doing, are they going to sell Shawn Spears merch? Are they losing out on t-shirts for ‘The Chairman’? They’re not going to sell them, just WWE doesn’t when your Max Moons leave the company.
“There might be the occasional action figure that comes along later because they want to have obscure characters in an action figure line, but they’re not really losing anything by not having it. They will have access to the footage and the pay-per-views and all that. They have that in perpetuity. They can have that and sell it and use it repackage and do whatever they want with it for all time, so it’s not really stopping them from doing anything.”
You can follow Mike Dockins on Twitter @GimmickAttorney
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