Young Bucks receive cease and desist over hand gesture

October 4, 2017

Pro wrestling tag team, the Young Bucks (real life brothers Matt and Nick Jackson) are big stars on the independent wrestling scene.  Recently, World Wrestling Entertainment sent the team a cease and desist letter for using hand gestures and phrases made popular by WWE characters during their performances.

The “Kliq” hand gesture was used in the mid-1999 by WWE performers Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman and Triple H.  It was later used in the 2000s by wrestling group the New World Order in World Championship Wrestling.

Too Sweet

Hook’em Horns

The Young Bucks have used the hand gesture on the independent scene and in Japan along with their stable of wrestlers.

The WWE sent a cease and desist letter to the wrestlers requesting that they stop using the hand gesture in addition to another gesture as well as catchphrases or else be sued by the company.

Notably, the WWE attempted to trademark the “Kliq” hand gesture with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in March 2015.  However, it received an Office Action that the hand gesture was likely to be confused with a trademark owned by The Board of Regents of the University of Texas System.  That trademark, registered in May 2014, is described as “the representation of a human hand with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb closed over the middle and ring fingers.”  It is commonly referred to as the “Hook’em Horns” symbol.  Gene Simmons of famed rock band Kiss attempted to trademark a similar hand gesture earlier this year as it is commonly known as a “rock on” symbol.  But, he later abandoned the application likely due to the fact that it would not survive a challenge from the University of Texas.

Instead of challenging the WWE, the Young Bucks decided to let the hand gesture go.  Instead, their new merchandise is based on the cease and desist.

IP protection of hand gestures in pro wrestling is not new.  Former pro-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page sued rapper Jay-Z over a copyrighted hand gesture which symbolized a diamond.  Jay-Z used the hand gesture to signify his record label.  Page noted he had copyrighted the symbol in 1995.  In fact, a records search reveals that he did.

Trademarks and copyrights differ as we previously discussed in this post.

In essence, the reason for the WWE’s cease and desist relates to the commercial use of the mark.  Protection of one’s intellectual property is important despite many who believe that the move was done to harass the Young Bucks.  Certainly, harassment is an incidental benefit for the WWE, and the Young Bucks, as well as some wrestlers associated with them recently mocked the company prior to a live show last week.  The old saying about messing with the bull and getting the horns finally came around to the bucks as the WWE flexed its legal muscle.

Not only did the WWE come down on the “Too Sweet” hand gesture but it also is preventing them from the “Suck It” callout and gesture as well.

For those wondering, its hard to argue the issue of “Fair Use” as the Bucks could claim parody.  For those that follow this, the 2 Live Crew case which used the Roy Orbison song, “Oh, Pretty Woman,” was retooled by the Miami-based rap group.  The U.S. Supreme Court deemed that the song was a commercial parody of the Orbison song and considered Fair Use.  We talk about “Fair Use” here.

But, the monetization of their use of the phrases and gestures would prove to be a hard factor to overcome.  Moreover, one of the factors, effect upon a work’s value, would be impacted.  The market is affected as the use of the material by the Bucks could be construed as a substitute for the original Kliq which may negatively impact the commercial use of the original Kliq.

 

 

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