The International House of Pancakes has taken on the International House of Prayer in a lawsuit charging trademark infringement over the use of the IHOP acronym.
IHOP is seeking an injunction to stop the Kansas City, Mo.-based religious organization, which also calls itself IHOP, from using the name. The chain contends that the prayer group has intentionally attempted to trade on the name it made famous, and that guests are confused.
“We’ve been asking them for some time to stop using our name, but they have refused and the guest confusion has continued," said Patrick Lenow, a spokesman for the restaurant chain. "We felt compelled to act on behalf of our franchisees.”
Venetia Carpenter, community relations director for the International House of Prayer, said the organization was “aware of the lawsuit, and was reviewing the situation,” but otherwise had no comment.
Owned by Glendale, Calif.-based DineEquity Inc., IHOP was founded in Toluca Lake, Calif., in 1958 as International House of Pancakes, but the company began marketing the chain as IHOP in 1973.
IHOP now has more than 1,400 mostly franchised locations worldwide, including about 225 in California, where the case was filed Sept. 3 in a U.S. District Court. The company owns the trademark rights to IHOP for restaurant and related services — as well as a family of derivative names, including IHOP FOR ME, IHOP Café, IHOP N’ GO and IHOP Express, according to the complaint.
The International House of Prayer, which the lawsuit calls IHOP-KC, is a religious organization that offers 24-hour online prayer services, as well as events and retreats, and a bible school. In Kansas City, a facility includes a coffee shop that serves food and beverages.
The group uses the web domain www.ihop.org, and has established offices in several California cities. The Pasadena International House of Prayer, for example, is known as PIHOP, at www.pihop.com.
In addition to customer confusion over the name, IHOP spokesman Lenow said the chain is concerned about sending a message of religious tolerance. Some might see the similarity in name as the restaurant chain supporting one particular faith.
The lawsuit seeks to recover legal fees associated with the case, but seeks no damages beyond that.
“We don’t want to harm the International House of Prayer,” Lenow said. “We just want them to stop using our name.”
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].