The case of WWF vs WWF is one of the most interesting legal cases in the world of marketing and offers much for brand managers to learn about handling a brand name change.

The World Wildlife Fund filed a lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation for infringement of their brand, and the judge presiding over the case found in the organisation's favour.

As a result, the World Wrestling Federation was bound to change its international brand to avoid confusion between the two organisations. It has since been renamed World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE.

For many WWF meant all things wildlife...

The World Wrestling Federation did at least have a fantastic 'overall' name as an alternative, despite the limitations that competitors placed within the brand space. Once the ruling was in place, they used this name to switch their focus solidly towards entertainment – making the change name ruling into a part of the drama. They even launched their own TV channel in line with the new name.

As a case study, this tactic wouldn't necessarily be possible for all businesses, but it does demonstrate how innovative thinking can create excitement around a rebrand.

Potentially Disastrous Mistakes Were Made

However, the World Wrestling Organisation did make some mistakes. First, it fought the lawsuit when it was obvious to all informed parties that it was going to lose it. It also tried to launch its TV channel too soon as a knee-jerk response, and then had to push it back significantly and relaunch it again, having learned from its mistakes.

One further error was that it kept rebranding certain elements so that only the core fans were able to keep track of the different rosters. Most people became confused by the various takeovers.

Key Learning Points for Brands

The case is a classic one for students of branding and marketing. It shows that businesses should act quickly when they find that other entities are trading with the same name.

for others it meant Royal Rumble and Hulk Hogan.

If the competing organisation is older and deemed to be worthier than your newer business brand, you will stand little chance of winning. In the example above, the World Wildlife Fund had been operating for over 40 years, had been formally registered and was an established, recognised name with senior patronage.

Age is particularly critical. If two organisations share a name and neither is registered in the UK, the usual legal precedent is that the older of the two will be awarded the name in a dispute.

The case study is an important one for SMEs to consider. Businesses must be aware of what is happening in the world around them and have contingency plans in place. Even in the event of a forced legal name change, it is possible for businesses to come out on top. Look at World Wrestling Entertainment – it managed to ride on the drama of the case and come out with an extremely well-known and popular brand that has since gone from strength to strength, despite its initial post-ruling challenges.