WWF grudge match against WWF & Missoula's license to fail 

“This week on WWF, a no-holds-barred cage match between the Rattlesnake and the Panda…” Which WWF, you ask, the World Wrestling Federation or the World Wildlife Fund? Good question, and one that had to be adjudicated in a London courtroom several weeks ago. In October 2000, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which is still known in the United States by its original name, World Wildlife Fund, called the World Wrestling Federation to the mat with a trademark infringement lawsuit. Widely recognized by its initials and black-and-white panda logo, the World Wildlife Fund claims to be the world’s largest independent conservation organization, with some 4.7 million supporters in 100 countries. WWF’s stated mission is “to protect nature and the biological diversity that we all need to survive.” Quite a different gig than the other WWF, a multimedia entertainment conglomerate that is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (under the stock symbol WWF) and last year drew 2.3 million people to 210 live events in 100 cities across North America. Although WWF (the critter conservation contingent) and WWF (the chair-tossing, muscle-bound thespians of the ring) had reached an agreement over the use of “WWF” as early as 1994, the issue in this round was the wrestling federation’s use of the web address, wwf.com. The panda peeps argued—and the British judge agreed—that the wwf.com web address was confusing would-be conservation donors, who couldn’t distinguish if their hard-earned dollars, shekels or pesos were going to save Monarch butterflies and snow leopards or to help “The Undertaker” deliver atomic knee drops on “Rhyno.” A written statement by the World Wrestling Federation says it plans to appeal the decision. Maybe they should double-bill their grudge match on Pay-Per-View with one between Northwest Airlines (www.nwa.com) and the gangsta rap group NWA. Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!

We’ve heard of a license to drive, a license to marry and even—albeit in James Bond films only—a license to kill. But a license to fail? That’s right. According to the City of Missoula website (www.ci.missoula.mt.us) one of the many services now offered by the Missoula City Clerk’s Office is a “going-out-of-business license.” According to City Clerk Marty Rehbein, whenever a business conducts a going-out-of-business sale, it is required to have a license. Although Rehbein was not with the city when the ordinance was passed some two decades ago, she says the ordinance was enacted in response to a number of unscrupulous entrepreneurs who were buying out the inventories of stores in other cities, bringing them into Missoula and holding ongoing going-out-of-business sales, even though they had never been “in business” here in the first place. These fly-by-night operations were selling merchandise at drastically reduced prices, often without a city business license, and unfairly competing against local vendors. “It’s also been a practice of some stores to go out of business all the time and never go out of business,” says Rehbein . She says that since the ordinance was written rather narrowly, some local businesses manage to skirt its restrictions by opting instead to hold “retirement” sales—often more than once.

Is this ordinance just adding bureaucratic insult to injury? Not really. A going-belly-up permit is free and used simply to verify that the vendor had a business license to begin with. Which begs the question: What do you do to a business that refuses to get a going-out-of-business license? According to the city clerk, this problem has yet to arise.

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