October 7, 2010
Pancakes or Prayer? That’s the question facing the Central District of California, where the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) has sued the Missouri-based International House of Prayer (IHOP) for misappropriation of the IHOP trademark. The complaint alleges that the defendant “intended to misappropriate the fame and notoriety of the household name IHOP to help promote and make recognizable their religious organization.” You can view the entire complaint at 2010 WL 3532126.
Shared acronyms are a common source of trademark dispute. For example, National Cable Television Association v. American Cinema Editors, 937 F.2d 1572, involved a dispute over the use of the trade name “ACE.” There the court stated that in order to be entitled to trademark protection, an acronym does not need to be adopted in any official or technical way. Instead, “An organization need only to have used a name or acronym in a manner that identifies the company by that name or acronym to the public.” Hence International House of Pancake’s assertion in its complaint that the IHOP mark “is widely recognized among the general consuming public in the U.S. as a designation of the goods and services of International House of Pancakes, and has been famous for at least 20 years.”
You can see some other court decisions pertaining to shared acronyms by running this search in the federal trademark cases database (FIPTM-CS): same similar! identical! exact! /4 acronym letter /p infring!
West Reference Attorney