Tuesday, March 22, 2005

So, who owns the rights to 'Hulk Hogan'?

In professional wrestling, the only thing more difficult than keeping track of who the good guys are is figuring out who has the rights to the name "Hulk Hogan": Marvel Enterprises, World Wrestling Entertainment or Terry Bollea.

A three-paragraph brief in today's New York Post reports that Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea will have to change his stage moniker to "Hollywood Hogan" on Friday, when the licensing agreement for the use of the name expires between Marvel and the WWE.

As you may recall, the WWE sued Marvel last July in an attempt to maintain the rights to the name "Hulk Hogan," which the WWE originally licensed in 1985 after the publisher claimed Bollea's pseudonym infringed on the Incredible Hulk. Marvel contended the agreement expired in August 2004, but the WWE claimed it held the rights until March 2005.

So, that date is here, and the Post says the deal is over. Right?

Well, Pro Wrestling Insider adds a wrinkle to the story, reporting that, according to court documents filed on March 7, Marvel has assigned "all right, title and interest and associated goodwill" related with the name "Hulk Hogan" to Bollea:
This may have been as part of a settlement from a trademark infringement suit Marvel had filed against Hogan back last year, which was dismissed in September 2004. Marvel had been seeking $100,000 in damages according to court documents.

WWE learned of Marvel and Hogan's agreement on 2/25 (they announced he was joining their Hall of Fame just three days later) and petitioned Judge Victor Marrero to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice, since the matter was no longer a valid issue as Marvel had no claim to the "Hulk Hogan" name.

WWE also requested that Marvel's countersuit against them, which claimed there was a contract breach over their agreement on how the Hulk Hogan name would be used, be dismissed as well. Attorneys for Marvel requested the court continue to oversee that situation and make a ruling. A conference was scheduled for 3/18 to handle the matter before the Judge, but the actual case of who owns the trademark and rights at this point appears to be settled - Hogan himself now owns it.
Expect more coverage when and if details become less confusing.