Both Sides Claim Victory in Walking Horse Registry Dispute

Both sides in a dispute over ownership of Tennessee Walking Horse registry information are claiming victory in a case that took two years to process through the legal system, despite one of the parties being found in violation of copyright laws and fined $31,000.

The court contest began in December 2005 when the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors' Association (TWHBEA), founded in 1935 to promote and maintain the purity within the Tennessee Walking Horse breed, filed a five-count complaint against the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA). The NWHA was established in 1998 to preserve and promote natural gaits of Walking Horses and other gaited breeds.

On Dec. 12 of this year U.S. District Court Judge Todd C. Campbell ruled that the NWHA violated copyright laws when it "solicited"--and accepted--TWHBEA registration documents from horse owners as way to provide pedigree and other identifying information for NWHA registration.

As a result of the ruling, TWHBEA was awarded $31,000 in statutory damages. The NWHA was barred from soliciting or referring to the TWHBEA registry, certificates, or registration numbers in its applications or Web site, and it was ordered to return all TWHBEA certificates in its possession.

TWHBEA Interim Executive Director Stan Butt declined comment. However, a statement posted on TWHBEA's Web site characterized the final opinion as "a very strong victory for TWHBEA, and it reaffirms the Court's summary judgment on the copyright claim from January 2007 in TWHBEA's favor."

Still, NWHA Executive Director Donald A. Vizi called the final ruling a win for his organization.

"The judgment was in favor of NWHA because claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and intentional interference with business relations were all found to be without merit and dismissed," Vizi said. "The court also said pedigree and factual information about a horse are not copyrightable. That means our tracking registry is intact."

Both parties have until Jan. 12, 2008 to appeal the court's final ruling.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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