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Pro-wrestling fixture sues firm over trademark issues

A well-known and longtime fixture in professional wrestling, who was involved in a 1990 riot in Altoona, filed a federal suit against an online retailer, its Brownsville owner and an Altoona wrestler, claiming a T-shirt sold with his likeness on it violates federal trademark laws.

James “Jim” Cornette, whose involvement in wrestling stretches back several decades, asked a judge to bar Brownsville-based The Indy Connection from selling shirts that contain his image and the phrase “(Expletive) Jim Cornette.”

That phrase is at issue throughout the suit, which also contends the shop’s owner, William J. Molnar Jr., filed an application to trademark the phrase for use on clothing and registered a similar domain name.

The suit contended shirt sales were promoted on social media by Brandon Graver, an Altoona wrestler who uses the ring name G-Raver.

On Oct. 19, 1990, Cornette made news locally when he hit a Clinton County man with a tennis racket resulting in what Cornette dubbed a riot during a professional wrestling match at the Jaffa Mosque.

Mirror records state the spectator, “Mark Williams, 42, of Mill Hall, suffered a 3-inch gash on the top of the head after he was hit by … Cornette, 29, … who manages Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane, known as the Midnight Express.

“After being hit, Williams, who had gone to the Mosque with his wife and children, was escorted by security guards to the lobby of the Mosque, but he made his way back into the arena,” a Mirror story said.

As Williams was being escorted by security from the arena a second time, he collapsed and was taken to Altoona’s Mercy Hospital.

Police said at the time they had received two different accounts of what happened: One claiming Williams charged the ring and began scratching a wrestler, managed by Cornette, and another claiming that Williams was taking photos while standing at railing about 5 feet from the ring, when he was struck.

Cornette said in a YouTube video he quickly fled the venue.

The shirts that are the subject of the federal lawsuit came about after a heated Twitter exchange between Graver and Cornette in late August, according to the suit.

By Sept. 12, the Cornette-based domain name was registered, and Molnar applied to trademark the phrase “(Expletive) Jim Cornette,” West Virginia attorney Robert P. Dunlap II alleged.

The suit contended the shirts, previously sold for $24.99 at The Indy Connection’s online store, use that phrase at the bottom.

The front of the shirt features Cornette’s head with tattoo needles protruding from his forehead, his eyes covered with bloody Xs and his mouth gagged, Dunlap wrote.

After Cornette complained about the shirts to Shopify, which provides fulfillment services for online shops, Dunlap contended shirt sales went through the website using Cornette’s name, but customers were redirected to The Indy Connection.

The objection, according to the suit, is not the colorful language the shirt uses. The filing notes Cornette sells at least one item through his own online shop that includes similar language.

Instead, Dunlap wrote, the objection is to the unauthorized use of Cornette’s image and name and the profit gained from it.

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