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Golfing great Tiger Woods has won a federal court order in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that forbids a Vancouver, Wash.-based yacht maker from using him and his wife in the company’s marketing efforts. The decision clears the way for Woods to seek $50 million in damages. In an order published Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch upheld a preliminary injunction barring Christensen Shipyards Ltd. from using Woods, his wife or the luxury yacht it manufactured for him — named Privacy — to market its products. Zloch also rejected the company’s request to move the case to Washington state. The judge found that a provision in the sales contract naming Clark County, Wash., as the venue for any disputes was unenforceable. Woods’ attorney J. Douglas Baldridge, a partner at the Washington D.C.-based law firm Venable, said the judge’s order was an important step in the case. “Now we can embark on discovery and proceed to trial,” Baldridge said. “I believe the evidence is going to show an attempt to use Tiger’s celebrity to promote its boats.” Leslie Lott, of Lott & Friedland in Coral Gables, Fla., who is representing Christensen, referred questions to his client’s public relations firm. The firm did not respond to telephone inquiries before deadline. Woods sued Christensen in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale last October after the golfer purchased the 155-foot yacht, reportedly worth $20 million, in February 2004. Woods lives in the Isleworth Country Club in Windermere; Christensen maintains a sales office in Fort Lauderdale. Woods’ case is based on an alleged breach of contract and the common law claim of rights-of-publicity, which allows individuals to control their name and image in relation to product promotion. Woods, whose astounding success in golf’s major tournaments has led to enormous endorsement and advertising contracts, sought $50 million from Christensen in the initial complaint. According to the suit, Woods intended for his yacht Privacy to provide just that — a sanctuary from his international celebrity for himself and his family. The purchase contract included a clause limiting Christensen’s ability to mention Woods’ purchase. The contract forbade Christensen from using the boat transaction in its marketing materials or promotions. But it allowed sales representatives to disclose the purchase to prospective customers or to the media when asked. Woods alleges that in August of last year the yacht builder began a broad marketing campaign using him, his wife, Swedish model Elin Nordegren, and their boat to lure customers. The alleged marketing included several articles about Woods’ boat, including prominently placed stories in Power & Motor Yacht Magazine and photographs displayed at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show last October. On learning of the alleged contract violation, Woods and Nordegren sued. Christensen responded by arguing that the case should be moved to Washington state, as specified under the contract. Other than arguing for a change of venue, Christensen has not asserted any defense or rebuttal of Woods’ claims. Its attempts to dissolve the injunction have been based on the argument that the forum is improper. But Nordegren is also a plaintiff in the case, and she was not a party to the purchase contract. Since her case could not be moved to Washington, Judge Zloch determined, it would be unreasonably complicated to split up the proceedings. A 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bremen v. Zapata Off Shore Co., requires forum selection clauses in contracts to be reasonable. Zloch cited that decision as a basis for finding that forcing Woods to litigate his case in Washington — while his wife sued in Florida — would be unreasonable. “The enforcement of the forum selection clause would be parallel proceedings in different forums on the same set of facts and legal issues,” Zloch said in his order. “The court finds that enforcement in light of said considerations would lead to the “unreasonable” and, arguably, “unjust” result of judicial inefficiency and potentially competing judgment.” Now Woods’ attorneys will focus on the next step of the case — attempting to prove that Christensen violated the contract. “The basic discovery is going to involve Christensen’s marketing campaign,” Baldridge said. “We believe the evidence is going to show that that contract provision [allowing Christensen to speak of the purchase in certain situations] was not properly invoked. There was no legitimate media request for Christensen to respond to.”

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