iHop, U-Hop, Let’s Eat and Pray

The Point

Supersize my prayers! I suspect the California lawsuit, IHOP v IHOP, will end in good cheer. Good luck if you’re trying to establish “confusion” between selling pancakes and selling prayers. It isn’t as if Kansas City-ites are pretending to market a classic American breakfast delicacy. Trademarks aren’t about acronyms they’re about product and service. Besides, prayer isn’t for sale and IHOP Corp., isn’t filing for damages, probably because there are no damages to even claim. If anything, the two have synergy.

I was in the prayer room on Redbridge Road in Kansas City, MO, 2003, when my friends on staff said, “Hey, let’s go eat at IHOP.” Think about it.. It’s 4 am, you’re praying, been fasting all day, at IHOP 24/7.. Where will you go eat? How about IHOP 24/7 across the street. As we sat in the pancake house over coffee, KNEE-deep in syrupy prayer discussion, some one said it, “Let’s go back to the IHOP.”

The pancake dealer owns two consecutive trademarks of IHOP® (3429405, 3429406) fair and square. But they also have two pending trademarks for IHOP U™—both filed on August 31, 2010, not two weeks before filing their suit in California. “IHOP U” was used by the prayer house well before that. This could beg questions of something akin to a hostile takeover and may thereby weaken an argument. Besides, you can’t complain that someone uses ihop.org just because you have ihop.com.

If anything, the lawsuit will result in more publicity for both. Praying-people aren’t malicious, so I don’t anticipate a boycott against pancakes. Where else would they eat? Save your breakfast receipts and show them in court. Intercessors love to forgive their enemies almost as much as they love to eat. I mean, they need to compensate for all those “days of fasting” somehow. Maybe the two should cooperate and build across from each other in every American city.

If you read the tabloids, you’d think Bickle, IHOP-KC founder, was preaching doomsday and capitalizing on religiosity. The $150 million facility said to be proposed pales in comparison to the $2.1 billion that IHOP Corp. bid on Applebee’s in 2007. If money means “cult” then IHOP Corp. is guilter than IHOP-KC. As for “preparing for The End times,” Bickle’s doing a good thing.. All the pancakes on America’s waistline could be another way of supersizing The End.

So don’t get “flippy” over the IHOPs. At most, the International House of Prayer will need to use their full-name and qualify their acronym (ie IHOP-KC)—which wouldn’t be a bad thing since it’s touted as a “regional-based” ministry concept that refuses to “franchise.” I’m not on staff with IHOP-KC, though I’m well acquainted. The “love your enemies” folk who practically spend their lives in prayer will likely respond in unoffendable friendship. It’s a win-win, regardless. There’s no skin off anyone’s nose and definitely no butter off the pancakes.

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