Jim Cornette did not like the fact that someone was selling t-shirts that said “F*ck Jim Cornette” on it. He took the matter to court, but Cornette did not garner the ruling he wanted.

An indie wrestler named G-Raver started selling shirts with Cornette’s face on it. This came after Cornette bashed the death match wrestler. Those shirts sold very well, and then a second “Clownette” shirt was sold.

The court ruled last month that the t-shirt is okay to sell. G-Raver was making a commentary on Cornette’s critique of his art form. It was stated that “parodies are a valuable means of expression.”

Thanks to Alexandra J. Roberts, we have a full description of this case and the verdict.

the decision in the @TheJimCornette v. @StaySickGRAVER trademark & right of publicity lawsuit came out last month and it is a treat. big thanks to @ericgoldman for sending it my way. here’s one of the shirts at issue

g-raver is a deathmatch wrestler; he wrestles others w/ “improvised weapons, e.g. light tubes, barbed wire, thumbtacks, panes of glass, & weed whackers…graver’s signature weapons are tattoo needles.” he did not bring any of those items to court to defend this suit afaik tho.

cornette is a wrestling commentator w/ 2 popular podcasts. the court calls him a “celebrity” w/ a “professional persona.” cases about the wrestling world are always fascinating b/c the parties are not exactly people but not purely fictional characters (see hulk hogan).

cornette often comments on wrestlers doing stupid things. g-raver, being a deathmatch wrestler, does stupid things. in one match he lacerated his arm & could’ve died; cornette tweeted “if fans were lucky…everyone could watch [g-raver] bleed out.” twitter altercation followed.

after the initial dispute, “cornette dubbed graver ‘grover’—a reference to the sesame street character—created a thumbnail of graver as grover for his podcast videos, & used the thumbnail for an animated game of whack-a-mole.” are you not entertained?

g-raver decides to create a “parody shirt” featuring cornette. he suggests tattoo needles (his signature weapon) stuck in cornette’s head; Xs over cornette’s eyes; & duct tape over cornette’s mouth “to muzzle cornette’s vocal criticism of deathmatch wrestling.” the shirts sell.

there’s a 2nd shirt, called “clownette.” a g-raver compatriot also registered the domain name http://f*ckjimcornette.com & another filed an application to register FUCK JIM CORNETTE as a trademark for clothing.

meanwhile cornette started selling a copy of the shirt itself, on the theory that if anyone were going to benefit from his name image & likeness, it should be him. 32 other websites also sold knockoffs or other versions.

cornette sues g-raver & some other players for federal trademark infringement, dilution, & cybersquatting, & violation of his right of publicity under pennsylvania law. he does not succeed.

the court says the t-shirts aren’t commerce but speech: “g-raver sold the shirts…to critique cornette’s views on deathmatch wrestling through parody; 1a protects this expression…b/c parodies are a valuable means of expression to weaken the ideas the celebrity espouses.”

on top of that, the shirts don’t create a likelihood of confusion. & cornette’s name may possess the distinctiveness that would make it a trademark. it’s certainly not a famous one capable of dilution. even if it were a mark, defendants’ uses aren’t similar.

the right of publicity claim also fails. there are exceptions to the PA statute’s coverage, “even when the use is facially for a commercial or advertising purpose; the relevant exception here is…the shirts are expressive works & the use is through a communications medium.”

one last point: i cannot figure out why the opinion says “TUCK jim cornette” in 3 places. as far as i can tell, the shirts use the actual f-bomb, as does the opinion elsewhere. hmu if you can help me solve this riddle. #thankyoufyoubye

This is a case that will likely cause Jim Cornette to fire some angry tweets. He might have a rant or three about it on his podcast. There’s still nothing he can do about it as Cornette took this matter to court and lost what could be a case that others can use as a precedent to protect their own right to free expression.

H Jenkins

I love pro wrestling and hate BS. These two things drive me. Years of experience in writing, journalism, and digging exclusive insider info for Ringside News. Worked in finance before realizing pro wrestling journalism made much less sense. Pro beachballs at pro wrestling shows, pro dives if someone catches, anti bullies, olives, and pineapples on pizza.

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