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In the great WWF name battle, the panda body-slammed The Rock. The World Wildlife Fund, best known for its efforts to protect the giant panda and other endangered animal species, won a judgment Friday against World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. over the use of the initials WWF. The decision curtails the ability of the wrestling group to promote itself, and will force it to abandon its Web address. The Stamford, Conn.-based company said it would appeal. Justice Robin Jacob of the Royal Courts of Justice in London ruled that the wrestling group had breached a 1994 agreement between the two sides that limited its use of the initials. In a written judgment, Jacob said it was understandable the fund did not want to be associated with the wrestling group. “Some would say its (the federation’s) glorification of violence is somewhat unsavory,” Jacob said. Jacob acknowledged it might cost the federation, famous for musclebound wrestlers such as The Rock and Undertaker, up to $50 million to change its logo, but said some of its arguments in court had been “hopeless” or “astonishingly poor.” The wildlife fund argued that worldwide exposure for wrestling had increased due to television and the Internet, leading to more widespread use of the initials by the federation. The two sides had almost identical Web site addresses. The wildlife fund also accused the wrestling federation of breaking their agreement and filed a lawsuit seeking enforcement of its trademark rights. Jacob said the wresting organization will be permitted a limited use of the initials in the United States, but will no longer be able to use its wwf.com Web site address. The wildlife group has wwf.org. Anita Neville, spokeswoman for the wildlife fund — known outside of the United States as the Worldwide Fund for Nature — said the judgment “means that our name and reputation is upheld.” Said Neville: “We are a global organization relying on donations and we wanted people to be able to give donations in confidence. The initials are vital to our organization.” The wrestling federation expected the decision based on the judge’s comments during oral arguments, said spokesman Judd Everhart. “We’re not surprised by today’s ruling,” Everhart said. “But we think it’s erroneous and we intend to appeal.” Everhart said he was not sure when the appeal would be filed. He was not sure what action the company would take regarding its Web site, though it remained active Friday. According to the written judgment, the fund initially had no objection to the wrestling group using the initials, as its activities were “broadly confined to the U.S. until the late 1980s.” As the federation’s activities spread to magazines, videos and merchandising, conflict began to emerge, and a contract was drawn up limiting the wrestling group’s use of the initials. The federation agreed to stop using the initials in writing anywhere in the world for the purpose of its business. It also pledged not to use the initials orally to sell merchandise, except in America, to encourage support. The judge said the federation initially complied with the agreement, but since 1997 it had “simply ignored the contract.” Jerry McDevitt, an attorney for the federation, said last year there was little chance anyone would confuse the two organizations. If the wrestling federation were forced to change its Web address, he said it would cause massive confusion. “All these millions and millions of fans — if the environmental group had its way — would type in wwf.com, and instead of seeing everything they’ve seen for years … are going to be directed to their site and learn about panda bears and whatever they’re doing to save the world,” McDevitt said. A further court session was set for October to determine costs and damages to be awarded. Shares of the wrestling federation were up 7 cents to $11.90 in light trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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