The Incredible Hulk sues bro over using family name on his fitness store

The man who played the Hulk super hero, a doer of good and fighter of crime in the TV series that spun off the original 1962 movie, is suing his brother, who has run a specialty fitness retail store since 1980 in New Jersey, for using the family surname on the store.
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The man who played the Hulk super hero, a doer of good and fighter of crime in the TV series that spun off the original 1962 movie, is suing his brother, who has run a specialty fitness retail store since 1980 in New Jersey, for using the family surname on the store.

Lou Ferrigno, aka The Incredible Hulk on TV, laid his claim to green fame playing the Marvel Comics character from 1978-1982 on the heels of a successful bodybuilding career. Two-plus decades later, The Friendly Brother has angrily transformed himself into The Big Plaintiff.

Lou Ferrigno has charged his brother Andy Ferrigno and wife Jane, who have run a specialty fitness store for 26 years under the name Ferrigno Fitness, with a laundry list of 127 acts listed under seven counts alleging unfair competition, trademark infringement, false advertising, consumer fraud, consumer misappropriation and trademark dilution for his brother's use of their family surname, Ferrigno, on the single store.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this year in the U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, asks that Andy Ferrigno and his business remove anything green and their family name from the store, as well as for an award "of such damages in an amount sufficient to compensate Lou Ferrigno and LFE (Lou Ferrigno Enterprises) for losses sustained as a consequence of defendant's unlawful acts, as well as profits attributable to the infringement."

Andy Ferrigno told SNEWS® that when he found out about the suit, "I called him and said, 'Louie, what's going on with this? I'm your brother. What's going on here?'

"We've been in the business for 26 years, and that's why we think this is hypocrisy," Andy Ferrigno said. "We work very hard in this business."

Lou Ferrigno's attorney Douglas Tween of Baker & McKenzie LLP told SNEWS® he had no comment on the case.

The case came to public attention when Andy Ferrigno's attorney Scott Wilhelm issued a press release in early March "to get Andy's story out and frankly to embarrass Lou," Wilhelm told SNEWS®. Since then, some version of the story, with plenty of pictures of a flexing Lou Ferrigno dressed in green and references to the Hulk, have run around the world, including on CBS and ABC and in USA Today and the Washington Post.

The suit alleges, among other things, that the store has a green wall and has pictures of Lou as the Hulk on the walls. In a response filed by Wilhelm, Andy Ferrigno denies all 127 allegations named in the complaint. He told SNEWS® his store doesn't have a green wall and never did, but notes that pictures of the Hulk inside were ones of his brother with his kids or with himself signed by his brother.

"We were doing it because we were proud of him," Andy Ferrigno said.

The anger that turned brothers against each other began around January 2005, Andy Ferrigno said, when Lou Ferrigno's attorneys issued, over the course of a year, three cease-and-desist letters. Andy Ferrigno said they did not respond.

"We think this is ludicrous," he added. "This is my name and this is my business. We're adamant. We've always been Ferrigno Fitness. I mean, what is the problem?"

Since the middle of last year, Andy Ferrigno has had a disclaimer on his website (www.ferrignofitness.com) stating "This website is not in any manner / form affiliated with Lou Ferrigno or Lou Ferrigno Enterprises. This website is proudly owned by Andrew Ferrigno." It then links to a letter explaining the circumstances of the disclaimer and the case. The store's voicemail also has a similar disclaimer.

Wilhelm said his client would love to settle but doubts that will happen since Lou Ferrigno's attorneys are demanding more than they're willing to give, including not using the family name on the store.

"We'd be happy to resolve it," Wilhelm said, "but I don't think it will happen since they're looking for everything."

SNEWS® View: The irony in this case is that the Hulk was a symbol of good, always looking out for the little guy in the face of corporate greed and evil doers. It took pain or anger to trigger the nuclear scientist and transform him into the hugely strong Hulk character. Now, it seems, the man who played the Hulk has become that which he fought so hard against as a TV character -- a greedy corporation causing pain. Lou apparently wants to grab more than just the family name for himself, too. He's after the color green it seems -- as in green with envy that he's no longer a celebrity -- what kid watching the recent Hulk movie remake knows who Lou Ferrigno is? -- while his brother, Andy, and his wife have a successful, albeit single-store, operation that is proud of the Ferrigno name because it is his own, not his brother's. One of our attorney sources said this suit was not worth paper it was written on.

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