IHOP Lawsuit: Pancakes v. Church Over Trademark Infringement

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on September 20, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Pancakes and prayer. It would be insulting and unpleasant on several different levels to get those two elements of a traditional Sunday morning mixed up. That is just what the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) has gone to a California federal court to prevent. According to the famous purveyor of delightful and overly-caloric breakfast treats, a church in Kansas City which has christened itself IHOP (International House of Prayer) will do just that, confuse us all. IHOP is suing for trademark infringement and dilution.

Earlier this month, as the Kansas City Star repots, the IHOP lawsuit (the original, hereafter, IHOP I) was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles claiming the church (hereafter, IHOP II) intended to adopt the name International House of Prayer knowing it would be abbreviated to IHOP with the intent to misappropriate fame and notoriety of the food chain.

At this time, IHOP II has not filed its response to the suit. According to the Star, IHOP II has been serving up prayer 24/7 since 1999. So, since IHOP II has been around more than a decade, why sue now? The territory of IHOP I has truly been breached, according to IHOP I's spokesman Patrick Lenow. "They've expanded -- and now some of the branches are serving food," he told the Star.

Serving up not only food the Star reports, IHOP II also offers a never-ending digital signal of prayers to Jerusalem, where it streams live on God TV for broadcast all over the world.

As always, a trademark infringement action like the IHOP lawsuit hangs on the possibility of confusion by the public over the origin of the goods and services in question. Despite the vast difference between prayer and pancakes, the age and fame of the IHOP I mark may still allow the pancakes to prevail. Gary Hecker, a well-known intellectual rights attorney in Los Angeles, told the Star that despite the differences in the "products," IHOP I has a case.

"I would take the pancakes," Hecker said.

According to the Star, IHOP II was started just before the millennium to prepare people for the "end times." And yet, here we are, still peacefully eating pancakes. Unless we get confused.

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