Armwrestling League Seeks to Pin Competition

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(CN) – The World Armwrestling League claims in court that a rival organization stole its property rights by using its top contracted athletes in promo materials.

Four WAL entities, led by Commissioner Steve Kaplan, filed a federal trademark lawsuit against Utah-based Rockwell Time Inc. in Chicago on Thursday.

Founded in 2014, WAL is “the largest and fastest growing professional arm-wrestling league in the world,” according to the lawsuit.

WAL says it has signed contracts with 13 athletes for event participation, marketing and licensing.

Rockwell, a designer of watches and sunglasses, is also in the arm-wrestling business. The company promoted at least 10 arm-wrestling competitions around the country in 2016, according to WAL’s lawsuit.

“Rockwell has, and continues, to use WAL Athletes in various interviews on webcasts and podcasts to promote the Rockwell Events,” the complaint states. “The Rockwell Events directly compete with WAL arm-wrestling events featuring WAL Athletes and, upon information and belief, are an attempt by Rockwell to build a league to compete with the [WAL].”

WAL also claims that Rockwell solicited its athletes to wear Rockwell watches during the WAL championships, which aired on ESPN.

According to WAL, the product placement value of arm wrestlers Todd Hutchings and Travis Bagent wearing the watches on television was worth over $500,000.

The league also says Rockwell marketed Bagent as “the face of its brand” by calling him a Rockwell athlete on social media.

Hutchings and Bagent are not parties to WAL’s complaint.

WAL’s lawsuit accuses Rockwell of deceptive trade practices, tortuous interference, false designation of origin, and violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.

In addition to treble damages, WAL seeks an injunction restraining Rockwell from using WAL’s athlete property rights without consent.

Attorney Brendi Kaplan of the Nashville, Tenn., law firm of Nelson, Mullins, Riley and Scarborough is representing WAL in the lawsuit.

Rockwell Time did not respond Friday to an emailed request for comment.