Martha Hart has refuted the claim that her lawsuit is politically-motivated with former WWE CEO Linda McMahon running for U.S. Senate.
In an interview with Politico, Hart said, "WWE certainly has no problem marketing, distributing products with [Owen Hart's] likeness on it which again, create a false association between me and the WWE, which does not exist. I have to scream it to the world: I have no association with these people."
Martha Hart alleges in her lawsuit filed today in Connecticut that WWE has used Owen Hart's likeness to their profit without her permission. She cited the recent release of the "Hart & Soul" DVD as the latest example.
McDevitt responded to the AP that "WWE has the right to use its own copyrighted material."
Hart claims to have sent WWE a "cease and desist" letter on March 25, 2010. The lawsuit reads that "the Estate, through counsel, immediately notified WWE that it had no permission to use Owen's legal name or likeness in connection with the Video; nevertheless, the WWE released the Video for sale."
She added that the defendants (WWE, Vince McMahon, and Linda McMahon) "did not seek or obtain the Estate's consent to use Owen's likeness or legal name or other Original Intellectual Property for promoting or packaging the Video, and have no right to do so without the consent of the Estate."
Caldwell's Analysis: It was expected that WWE would try to spin the lawsuit as a "politically motivated" attack on Linda McMahon during her Senate campaign due to the timing of the lawsuit. That doesn't appear to be the case from Martha's perspective.
The key to the lawsuit, after reviewing the entire document (downloadable as a .PDF), is whether the wrongful death settlement in 2000 included an agreement that WWE had to seek Martha Hart's permission to use Owen Hart's likeness in future WWE products. Martha's lawsuit filed today does not disclose whether that was spelled out in the settlement agreement.
Martha Hart wants to completely disassociate from WWE because the perception she's associating with WWE could affect the Owen Hart Foundation and she disagrees with everything WWE stands for on moral grounds. However, the key to her legal claim is whether there were specific provisions included in the settlement that WWE has clearly violated.
There will have to be more substance than just the following passage in the lawsuit: "Martha and Owen's children have steadfastly avoided associating with the WWE or the McMahons because they were responsible for Owen's death and have a public image that is inconsistent with Foundation's good works."
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