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Mean Gene Loses Court Battle

June 21, 2006, 6:20 PM by Lou Raguse

A federal judge took down wrestling announcer Gene Okerlund today in court — ruling he can not use his nickname for his new food business.

That's because Hot Stuff Foods has already trademarked “Mean Gene Burgers.”

The main evidence against Gene Okerlund in this case is a letter his new food business sent out to current Hot Stuff stores.

It had a logo on the letterhead, the same one Hot Stuff uses for its "Mean Gene's Pizza." While that isn't trademarked, Judge Larry Piersol decided it's too similar to the Mean Gene's Burgers logo, which Hot Stuff does legally own.

Hot Stuff Pizza won the first round in the battle over the Mean Gene Burgers name.

“He found actual confusion. He found irreparable harm,” Hot Stuff’s lawyer Steve Landon says. “Which is exactly what we've been saying.”

Judge Piersol says customers might not distinguish between the companies if Gene Okerlund starts his own Mean Gene food chain. And Piersol agreed with most of Hot Stuff's concerns.

“First of all, our employees and the management have put millions of dollars into growing a brand that we believe is part of Hot Stuff Foods, and part of our future,” says Hot Stuff president Des Hague.

Piersol did not completely shut down Gene Okerlund's new business today. He just ruled the names "Mean Gene’s Burgers” and Mean Gene's Pizza" are too close to what Hot Stuff has trademarked.

“The new business is going to be there,” Okerlund says. “It just depends under which moniker we're going to come up with.”

But Okerlund says he's not giving up on using the Mean Gene name. And there will be more court decisions down the road.

“My name!” he says. “Should be able to use it.”

Judge Piersol still will rule on whether to permanently stop the Okerlunds from using the Mean Gene name in business, and also whether the family is breaking non-compete clauses.

The Okerlunds indicated in court that they will challenge whether the registered trademark Hot Stuff owns is valid. They say Gene Okerlund never gave written permission for Hot Stuff to register it.

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