The WWE is known for their excellent t-shirt sales and merchandise history. At each WWE event, the merchandise tables are always full of WWE fans looking to get the next big thing, or just a shirt of their favorite WWE superstar. Popular designs have become famous with the product, such as Stone Cold’s “Austin 3:16” shirt, or Degeneration-X’s shirts. No matter what, most WWE stars have that signature tee they are synonymous with.
Nobody in the last decade has had more t-shirts than John Cena. He revealed in an interview years ago that he helps design his shirts by color and logo. The 15-time WWE champion has had every color on his t-shirts under the sun and that is on purpose. Since he’s over with most of the WWE Universe, his shirts can be seen on every single show. At one point, his choice of attire was a punch line for the Rock during their feud.
Cena’s WWE return brought back a new t-shirt, as it usually does. When it was debuted on WWEShop.com, the logo was reminiscent of a famous beer logo, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not too long after the new shirt was unveiled, PBR’s twitter took a shot at Cena and the WWE.
— Pabst Blue Ribbon (@PabstBlueRibbon) May 27, 2016
The WWE and their new shirt immediately came under fire for their parody of PBR’s design. It didn’t take more than 24 hours to respond and Pro Wrestling Sheet is reporting that Cena’s new shirt was already taken down and pulled.
“WWE says they will no longer sell John Cena’s new Pabst Blue Ribbon inspired shirt … even though they don’t believe they did anything wrong by making it.”
A rep for WWE says, “As a content creator, WWE respects trademarks and intellectual property, and therefore will not proceed selling the merchandise, despite it being an original design clearly within fair use.”
What does this mean for the WWE exactly? Well, since they took the shirt down already Pabst Blue Ribbon can’t really do anything. As the WWE representative said, WWE does respect trademarks and intellectual property. It’s technically an original design, so PBR couldn’t have sent a cease and desist letter. Parodies cannot be taken to court.
According to Stanford University’s Rich Stim, this is the definition of fair use.
“In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement.
Even if the WWE didn’t pull the shirt down, they most-likely would have been fine. It’s better to not toe the line, than to create controversy surrounding the product. Will John Cena have a new t-shirt after this situation? He will need a new shirt when he returns on Memorial Day, which is this upcoming Monday. If not, the WWE is missing out on a golden opportunity to cash-in on merchandise sales.
The WWE won’t mention it on WWE programming, either, as it will just bring attention to a bad situation. Cena, who is usually given a pass on the microphone, may mention something, but don’t count on it. WWE officials may just decide to have Cena go back to an old shirt for Monday Night RAW. He’s been out of action for several months. It shouldn’t matter what t-shirt he wears. WWE fans are going to be happy to see him.
[Image via WWE.com]