Ric Flair threatens WWE with legal action over ‘The Man’ trademark

To be the man, you have to pay the man.

In a new interview with TMZ, Ric Flair goes off on WWE. Flair claims the company blew him off when he asked to be paid for use of the catchphrase ‘The Man’.

Used by Becky Lynch since 2018, Flair makes it clear he has no beef with The Irish Lass Kicker, but feels disrespected by WWE.

“I’m glad that I’m having this opportunity to clear the air. When I first saw this go down in August 2018, I thought, Cool, ‘The Man’, my gimmick versus my daughter. Okay, that’s the day it started, right after SummerSlam. I thought, cool. I said, ‘I’m going to make some money, it’s my trademark and they have it to use. I’ve been saying it’s since 1981. So I got my worded statement, I sent them a text and the lawyer, who just has no respect for me whatsoever which is something I’m not going to deal with much longer, he said, ‘You’re wrong. It’s not even close.’ I said, ‘It’s not even close?’ So, boom, then I sent him another text, he didn’t respond. So I had my lawyer call him and he blew off my lawyer. This is all in 2018 or in January of 19.”

I told Hunter, ‘Hunter, I’m going to file.’ I mean, the reason they don’t have it, it’s my understanding is that it’s because it’s too close to mine.”

After explaining how he already owns the trademark and wrote a book including ‘The Man’ phrase as well as producing his own ‘The Man’ merchandise, Flair continued.

“It’s funny, my daughter is so mad at me because I filed, not even understanding that it’s not with Becky. I have no beef with Becky. But here’s the deal: when I almost died two years ago, one person, one person stayed by me the whole time for 31 days in ICU, 12 days while I was dying on a respirator, and I’m going to take care of her and her family, and my family that has taken care of me, no matter what. I don’t care what the WWE thinks of me personally; I know they love me, but obviously they have lost respect for me.”

Flair would end by saying he’s more than happy to let Becky Lynch have the phrase, as long as WWE pays him and his family.

Over weekend, reports surfaced of Flair filing for trademarks, with both Lynch and the 16-time world champion taking to social media with reactions.

Now that it’s out in the open, this is a very ugly situation between The Nature Boy and WWE. Hopefully it ends with Flair, Lynch, and the WWE all being happy with the outcome.

When it comes to using the phrase ‘The Man’, who is in the right here?

Comments

I don't know

If using a two word phrase qualifies it as being trademarked. I never saw that he referenced actually filing a trademark for it. I’m not IP lawyer though.

You don't actually need to file for a trademark to have one

(I’m not a lawyer of any sort either FYI) It just makes it a lot easier to assert your rights and defend it after you do, but technically anything you use in the manner of conducting business that fits the criteria of a trademark can potentially be one whether you’ve registered it or not.

If it is a unique enough phrase in the given context, someone absolutely could try to claim a 2-word phrase as a trademark, but I think "the man" is a bit too ubiquitous. I’d argue that it’s been too widely used in too many different contexts to be defendable at this point. Specifically regardless of the reasoning Flair choosing not to go after the mark when Seth was using it (despite it being a virtual certainty that Flair was aware of him using it ) severely hurts his prospects here.

Yeah, the thing about IP is that you have to defend it consistently and constantly. Because Flair didn’t raise an issue with Seth’s usage, like you said, it could hurt any court case that Flair brings about.

Someone did raise a point that it may never have appeared on merch when Seth used it though

I have to admit that could make a difference, but I’m still betting on the fact that someone appending "the man" to their name, both inside and out of wrestling, is an old as fuck nickname. Even if he had a claim to it at one point it’s almost certainly been genericized by now.

It could make a difference. But I don’t believe that one party has to make money off the trademark, for the trademark holder to claim infringement. Granted, there is less incentive for Flair to file if it would be difficult to assess the financial damage caused by the infringement. This is why the massive IP holders, like Disney, go after every infringement equally. Whether it’s a local daycare that painted Mickey Mouse on it’s walls, or a firm selling bootleg merchandise.

And like you said, the courts may find that "The Man" is a general enough term that has been used so frequently, that any trademark claim has been abandoned.

I don’t mention merch because of money. It’s the fact that the filing as it appears on the USPTO site specifically calls out that its area of use is merchandise, namely shirts). So Flair’s team’s argument is likely going to be that uses that didn’t involve clothing are irrelevant. I’m skeptical that would fly and I hope it doesn’t, but it’s certainly the angle they’re likely to take.

Trademarks yes, copyrights, no - you don't have to defend ALL IP constantly and constantly

Trademarks can become so generic that you can no longer enforce them, copyrighted material cannot.

But The Man, of course, is not copyrightable, so Flair’s trying the only avenue he has.

That makes perfect sense

Thank you. It’s not open and used consistently but I feel like wrestlers saying they are "the man" probably happens every day

did ric pay stan musial royalties?

fuckin ridiculous. and sad to see a legend reduced to this.

You're right. Ric should just step aside and let the McMahon family cash these checks

In any struggle between a billionaire owner/corporation and a player/worker, I always root for the big guy.

Not on the defense of the company, but Flair’s been moronic with his money for decades, so if he needs all the extra checks that’s for sure on him.

Even the limosine ridin', jet flyin' son of a gun

Could probably stand some extra income after being hospitalized and at death’s door not too long ago- regardless of how well he’s handled his money.

he has a heart disease from decades of drinking/abusing alcohol, again that’s something on him for not taking care of himself. But he’s also got a thick I.O.U list from paying women to keep quiet about his sexual harassment, from all the divorces he got himself into, and owing promoters for no-showing. His not having self-control or self-respect for his legacy is what is costing him in the money area.

How is any of that relevant to the legal/ethical infringement arguments here?

it's not.

As relevant as

In any struggle between a billionaire owner/corporation and a player/worker, I always root for the big guy.

So because Flair's claim is ridiculous, we must be wanting to see the big guy win. Sometimes I wonder if WWE pissed in your cereal.

you still eat cereal?

jeez, doesn’t even seem fair to respond.

I'm Canadian. WWE pissed in my cereal when they screwed Bret.

Go Flair go!

Going up against a big corporation doesn’t automatically make you right

Being right makes you right, and Ric is wrong

i will very rarely root for management over labor...

…but when labor is being dumb, i have enough self respect to root for management.

I don’t know about you, but I’m prepared to take things on a case by case basis. Just because WWE is a big corporation and Vince is a billionaire owner doesn’t mean they’re wrong. In some cases they are, but in this one? It doesn’t look like it, it looks like Flair is.

Just looked it up on tmsearch (trademark electronic search)

Ric owns the trademark

He just filed for the trademark in August. I doubt that it’s been approved already. To file for the trademark so long after Becky started using it tells me that he didn’t own it before she started being billed as "The Man" and this is just a shady money grab on Ric’s part. He filed "To Be the Man, You Gotta Beat the Man" back in 2009, so he’s now trying to argue that he should also own "The Man." If he’s telling the truth about wanting to take care of his family, then he should consider revising his lifestyle choices. It’s not WWE’s fault that Ric blew through millions of dollars because he wanted to live his gimmick.

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