World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. will defend its intellectual-property licenses in the courtroom instead of the ring.
The company filed a 14-count complaint Tuesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Jakks Pacific Inc., two foreign subsidiaries of Jakks, THQ Inc. (a joint venture involving Jakks and THQ), Stanley Shenker & Associates Inc. and Bell Licensing LLC.
The suit also named individuals employed by the corporate defendants, specifically including Jack Friedman, Stephen Berman and Joel Bennett, the three highest-ranking executives of Jakks, as well as Stanley Shenker and James Bell.
The suit alleged numerous violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the Robinson-Patman Act and various claims arising under state law.
WWE is seeking treble, punitive and other damages, as well as a declaration that its video-game license with the joint venture of Jakks and THQ and a related amendment to its toy license with Jakks are void and unenforceable due to commercial bribery and other violations of state law.
Jakks has been WWE's toy licensee since late 1995, and the current deals are otherwise set to expire in 2009. The joint venture of Jakks and THQ obtained the video-game license in 1998, with its term also scheduled to expire in 2009, subject to a right to renew the license by the joint venture for another five years on certain conditions.
"We very much regret having to take this action today, but we regret even more the facts and circumstances that have compelled us to do so,” WWE CEO Linda McMahon said in a prepared statement.
“WWE's intellectual property is a valuable asset of the company, and we believe the actions taken today are necessary to preserve the integrity of our licensing process and essential to ensure that WWE receives appropriate and fair compensation for the grant of a license to use our intellectual property," McMahon added.