February 28, 2002 1:10 PM PST

Wrestling loses WWF to wildlife

The World Wildlife Fund has put the clinch once again on the World Wrestling Federation in a tussle over use of the acronym "WWF," marking the latest legal setback for the entertainment group's marketing efforts.

The U.K. Court of Appeal on Wednesday upheld a lower court's ruling that found the federation had breached a 1994 agreement with the World Wildlife Fund that bars the wrestling group from using the WWF acronym. The decision, among other things, puts the future of the group's WWF.com domain name in doubt.

"We're obviously very pleased by the appellate court decision upholding the earlier court decision that confirms our rights to our initials," said Michael Ross, spokesman for the World Wildlife Fund. "We look forward to a speedy resolution in this matter as possible."

Ross said the wrestling group had breached the agreement "countless, thousands of times."

The international conservation group said it registered WWF in 1961 when it was founded. Now, the organization, which aims to protect the world's wildlife and wild lands, expects the wrestling group to refrain from using WWF as a domain name and for selling merchandise with the acronym.

The World Wrestling Federation declined to comment on the ruling, saying only that it will appeal the decision to the House of Lords, the supreme court of appeal in the United Kingdom.

The battle between the conservationists and the wrestling group is the latest among a raft of domain name squabbles. In one of the most high-profile cases, pop singer Madonna had sought the rights to Madonna.com, which was being operated by a pornographer. Other celebrities including actress Julia Roberts and Sting, the former bass player for The Police, have had similar spats.

 

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