KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A restaurant chain known for its pancakes is suing a Kansas City-based church mission that promotes its belief in daily, continuous prayer.
The International House of Pancakes has sued the International House of Prayer in federal court for using the IHOP acronym.
In the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the restaurant chain accuses the church of trademark dilution and infringement. The chain says it has six registered trademarks for the IHOP acronym and has been using the initials since 1973.
The Kansas City Star reports that the religious group has drawn thousands of people from around the world to south Kansas City since it opened 10 years ago. It sends a constant digital signal of prayers to Jerusalem, where it streams live on television for broadcast around the world.
Patrick Lenow, a spokesman for the restaurant chain, said the lawsuit was filed only after the church mission refused repeated requests to stop using the trademark. He said the lawsuit was filed now because the church has expanded in recent years and some of the branches are serving food.
"We are compelled to protect the 350 small-business owners who own IHOP franchises and the IHOP good name," Lenow said.
The restaurant chain is seeking attorney fees and costs of litigation but not monetary damages. It says the church's use of the IHOP logo causes confusion for the public. It also accuses the church of adopting the name International House of Prayer knowing it would be abbreviated to IHOP, with the intent of playing off the fame and notoriety of the restaurant.
Gary Cooper, a former Houston lawyer who until recently served as the church mission's chief financial officer, said Tuesday that he didn't think the lawsuit had any legal basis.
But Gary Hecker, an intellectual rights attorney in Los Angeles, predicted that the restaurant chain would win its lawsuit.
"Because of that extremely famous name, IHOP may well have the right to protect itself even well outside the scope of selling pancakes," Hecker told the Star.
Among the seven defendants, four are in California where the suit was filed, including the Pasadena International House of Prayer.