History and Status of the Lawsuit by Grand Slam Club/Ovis (GSCO) against the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) and International Sheep Hunters Association (ISHA)
The most important issue currently facing wild sheep and wild sheep hunters is occurring not on the rugged mountain slopes, the home to the majestic wild sheep, but in a drab courtroom in Birmingham, Alabama. A very brief history of how this has occurred is outlined below.
In 1995, FNAWS and GSCO entered into an agreement whereby FNAWS would let GSCO participate in the FNAWS Conventions, in an effort to help build interest in GSCO, while providing some ancillary benefits to FNAWS. This agreement included an introduction of GSCO Executive Director Dennis Campbell to the FNAWS membership (as FNAWS had previously done for Grand Slam Club founder Bob Householder). This contract called for, among other things, that Dennis Campbell would solicit donations on behalf of FNAWS, and that he would provide a one-year written notice of any desired termination of the agreement. Dennis Campbell violated this agreement by using his position with FNAWS to solicit donations to benefit GSCO and that he failed to provide one-years written notice prior to holding the first GSCO Convention in Biloxi. In addition, in 2004, without any warning, or any attempts at negotiations, GSCO unilaterally severed its contractual relationship with FNAWS.
The FNAWS Board of Directors at that time considered taking legal action against GSCO, and Dennis Campbell, for this violation of the contract. However, the Board felt that a legal action between the two groups was not in the best interest of wild sheep, nor of the sheep hunting fraternity. They decided to take the “high road” and not pursue litigation against GSCO (this is a very abbreviated statement that does not address monies owed to FNAWS, or detrimental business practices by GSCO).
Following GSCO’s divorce with FNAWS, further in keeping with the FNAWS Board’s desire to prevent a split in the sheep hunting fraternity, in 2005 FNAWS entered into a loosely structured Agreement of Goodwill. Unfortunately, GSCO violated the terms of the agreement by filing for trademark status for the terms ‘grand slam’ and ‘grand slam of North American wild sheep,’ in addition to numerous other commonly used terms.
FNAWS was quite willing to have GSCO go its own way, and FNAWS was content to continue to work for the benefit of wild sheep and wild sheep hunters. This, however, was not enough for GSCO. In November of 2006, GSCO filed suit against FNAWS, now claiming damages in excess of $10,000,000. FNAWS was forced to file a counterclaim to this charge.
Please keep in mind that if you are sued, you have no choice but to go through the legal process. Risking criticism during this period, FNAWS chose to remain on the “high road” and resisted publicly sharing the details of the proceedings. At the same time, GSCO has provided a continual flow of their interpretations of this lawsuit. In light of the latest developments and the increasing questions from members, FNAWS is now providing an overall update and status report of the lawsuit.
During this past year, FNAWS has made every effort possible to resolve the lawsuit filed by GSCO in a professional manner, focusing on protecting our right to conduct business in a similar fashion as we have since our inception in 1974. These efforts were greeted with a continual escalation of legal actions by GSCO. GSCO filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in an attempt to prevent FNAWS and its Chapters use of terms such as, “Grand Slam,” “3/4 Slam,” and “1/2 Slam,” prior to a full trial on the merits of this dispute. The judge ordered a preliminary injunction allowing FNAWS and ISHA to continue to use the terms in dispute if accompanied with a disclaimer. This order extends through the trial when the parties will present all of their evidence and arguments.
Subsequently, the California Chapter of FNAWS was going to put out a newsletter that contained some of the disputed terms. As a Board member of the California Chapter, Brenton Scott received a very limited early version of this proposed newsletter. Rather than bringing any concerns to the attention of the Chapter Board, he forwarded this advance copy to Dennis Campbell. GSCO’ lawyers then filed a motion against National FNAWS for the action of one of its Chapters, even though by their Charter, Chapters have been considered to be completely independent of National FNAWS. The hearing on this filing was held on November 17, and the judge ruled in favor of FNAWS; but revised the injunction to clarify that it would also apply to FNAWS’ Chapters.
The original suit is now scheduled to go to trial on January 22, 2008, in Birmingham, Alabama. The jury trial is expected to take almost two weeks, and it does not appear that we will be able to settle this dispute prior to that time. To that end, you should know that FNAWS has tried to resolve this matter so that both organizations can move forward in a positive manner to advance our mission “to promote and enhance increasing populations of indigenous wild sheep, to safeguard against their decline or extinction, and to fund programs for professional management of these populations, all while keeping administrative costs to a minimum.” At our prompting, we have met with Dennis Campbell, and representatives of GSCO, on three different occasions. The most recent meeting took place on November 30, 2007, in Chicago. Despite all of our offers, these meetings have been unsuccessful.
At the meeting in Chicago, FNAWS advanced several different settlement offers which were designed to accomplish three fundamental goals: 1) allow FNAWS and ISHA to continue to operate and advance their mission as they have done since their founding; 2) allow GSCO to operate without restriction for whatever mission it chooses to pursue; and 3) stop spending money on litigation which is harming both organizations and the conservation community as a whole. To that end, we even engaged in discussions that would allow both parties to operate jointly, or to even merge the organizations for the good of wild sheep and the sheep hunting fraternity.
GSCO rejected all offers from FNAWS. From this meeting it appears that: 1) GSCO wants to restrict activities that FNAWS and ISHA have engaged in since their inception; and 2) GSCO wants to eliminate all competition. Noteworthy is the fact that the claimed ‘trademarks’ and ‘copyrights’ are not central to these goals. At the Chicago meeting, FNAWS President Ray Lee promoted that the wild sheep hunting fraternity was much more important than either FNAWS or GSCO, and that we should bring our organizations together on their behalf. GSCO refused these overtures and instead stated that FNAWS should pay GSCO $750,000 and suffer other restrictions. While FNAWS has never sought to limit anything that GSCO wants to do as an organization, it is clear that this case is and has always been about GSCO’s desire to obtain a financial benefit from activities that a great many other organizations have engaged in for years.
As we move toward trial, there are certain facts that you should know. First, this case has been very expensive for both sides. Estimates of the total expense for both parties already exceed $1.5 million. We have never sugar coated the fact that we are spending money defending this lawsuit, funds that should have been used for our wild sheep conservation efforts. However, because GSCO filed this lawsuit, and is seeking millions of dollars from FNAWS and ISHA, which would obviously cripple our conservation efforts, we have no choice but to defend against GSCO’s allegations as vigorously as possible. While Dennis Campbell initially stated that he had one or more individuals who would ‘bankroll’ the litigation, it is incredibly unlikely that anyone (other than a committed animal rightist) would personally fund nearly $1 million dollars in legal fees to attack a wildlife conservation organization with the proven track record of FNAWS.
Dennis Campbell has claimed that GSCO is a legal continuation of the original “club” started by Bob Housholder. This claim has been disputed. Testimony by Dennis Campbell documents that he started his organization as a new entity in 1991. The records of the Grand Slam Club were given to Dennis Campbell by Bob Housholder’s brother after Bob’s death. The club’s life membership funds and other assets, however, were not transferred into the new entity, but were instead transferred into accounts held by Dennis Campbell (see court testimony transcripts pages 45-60 and pages 142-143 of the 9/29/2007 testimony of Dennis Campbell).
Additional claims by Dennis Campbell are that all of FNAWS’ previous Grand Slam awards were really GSCO awards; that FNAWS has no right to give awards to its members for achieving the Grand Slam; that he invented the 3/4 Slam raffle for GSCO; that FNAWS has no right to hold a FNAWS 3/4 Slam raffle; that he personally discovered the Desert Persian Ibex, that ISHA’s members cannot use ISHA’s caprinae form to record their wild goat hunting accomplishments; and that ISHA’s Super Slam form (which has been in use in some iteration for more than three decades) is merely a copy of GSCO’s World Slam form (which GSCO only began using in the early 1990s). The above represent just a few of GSCO’s claims that we are defending against in this lawsuit. Further, GSCO still refuses to make good on its prior financial commitments to FNAWS.
We believe this suit is merely about money, and the claimed trademarks are just a Trojan Horse for Dennis Campbell and GSCO’s desire to limit competition and obtain a monopoly on registration and awards that can be given in the sheep hunting world. We encourage you, however, to look at the public record and decide for yourself why GSCO filed this aggressive lawsuit against FNAWS and ISHA and why it has continued to prosecute an action which so far has only served to harm the goals that we all believe in: “to promote and enhance increasing populations of indigenous wild sheep, to safeguard against their decline or extinction, and to fund programs for professional management of these populations, all while keeping administrative costs to a minimum.” For your information, the record in this case is on file with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.
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On another important note, there has been much made of this year’s overlap of the FNAWS and the GSCO shows. Let it clearly be known that FNAWS was restricted to its present dates by much larger Conventions. Salt Lake City has 2 major outdoor shows each year – the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE). To give an example of the magnitude of these shows, the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market has 3,000 booths, while the ISE Show has approximately 1,000. The ISE Show is booked 12 years in advance. The ISE Show also has date restrictions around it (no other similar show can be held in Salt Lake City within 30 days before or 14 days after the ISE show).
As a result, when FNAWS came to Salt Lake City, we were faced with these limitations on possible dates. In addition, we try very hard not to overlap dates with other large shows, like the Dallas Safari Club, SCI, and the SHOT Show – further limiting the date opportunities. A show the size of our Expo takes multiple days to set-up and tear-down – we book the exhibit space from Saturday morning thru the following Sunday evening – 8 full days. Because we cover 2 weekends this further limits our possible show dates. With these restrictions, the only dates available to us in 2008 were February 2-10.
In addition to filing suit against FNAWS/ISHA for its usage of common terms, GSCO has broadly circulated information that an overlap in the 2008 show dates was the fault of FNAWS, and was in some way intentional. To clarify this information – on February 20, 2006, GSCO Executive Director Dennis Campbell contacted Don Peay who, while on the Board of Directors of FNAWS/ISHA at that time, was only in a volunteer position. Don Peay was not familiar with the set-up and tear-down requirements of the show and considered it to be a period of only 6 days – as distinctly noted in his email response to Dennis Campbell, also dated February 20, 2006. It should also be noted that Don Peay used the term PROPOSED DATES (this emphasis was included in the email) and also stated “a lot of what happens in 2008 and 2009 will depend upon what happens in 2007″ – further emphasizing the tenuous nature of information he was then providing.
Dennis Campbell later wrote that his “Board met on May 12, 2006 and confirmed our 2008 through 2010 convention dates.” Therefore, the actual contracting of the dates would have occurred subsequent to this Board meeting – obviously he never checked with anyone to see if the PROPOSED DATES mentioned nearly 3 months earlier had been finalized before contracting his own dates. A simple contact with the FNAWS Staff, at any time in this process, would have provided GSCO with the actual dates for the 2008 Expo.
In a December 8, 2006, email to Don Peay, Dennis Campbell states “from my email of February 20, you must have known there would be a conflict if FNAWS changed to February dates. You plainly stated the dates you were going to lock in with SLC.” Of course, if you read Dennis Campbell’s second February 20 email to Don Peay, you will note there is no mention of the GSCO show dates and that he thanks Don Peay for the proposed dates (emphasis added).
No matter whose fault this initial overlap in dates may have been, FNAWS still tried to resolve this situation. FNAWS checked with the Riviera Hotel (site of the GSCO convention) and was informed that the GSCO show dates could easily be moved. During our settlement meeting in Denver, FNAWS offered GSCO several hundred thousand dollars to move their dates to prevent this overlap – GSCO refused to do so. Those of you who are having difficulties due to the overlap in dates should carefully consider that FNAWS made significant financial overtures to preclude this overlap – and that GSCO specifically chose to keep the overlapping dates.
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There are many who blame GSCO for filing their lawsuit against FNAWS. A lawsuit that no matter how it is finally resolved, will have cost wild sheep and wild sheep hunters dearly – and squandered the donations and membership fees of our members. There are also many who think, well, if GSCO filed a lawsuit, FNAWS must have done something wrong. We did not. Now that the FNAWS Chapters and Affiliates have come under the same attack by GSCO, it becomes rather obvious that the issue is not about terminology, but about control. It now becomes, do you want to support a group that mostly rewards people for killing wild sheep, or do you want to support an organization that mostly works to put sheep on the mountain?
FNAWS/ISHA Board of Directors
Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of HuntingLife.com. His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.