Del Taco Hero Cuts Too Close to Zorro, Suit Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Who is that masked man in Del Taco's new series of television commercials?

The Laguna Hills-based fast-food chain calls him "Del Taco," a swashbuckling hero who, according to its new advertising slogan, is "bringing better Mexican food to the people."

But TriStar Pictures and Zorro Productions Inc. are crying foul. They contend in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles that the dashing masked man too closely resembles the Zorro character to which they hold the exclusive rights. The companies are suing Del Taco and the chain's Los Angeles advertising agency, WongDoody, to have the commercials yanked from the air. They are also seeking damages of more than $1 million.

In the suit, Zorro Productions said it owns all rights to trademarks and trade dress associated with Zorro and that TriStar is the exclusive licensee for use of Zorro trademarks in motion pictures, among other things.

The character in the Del Taco commercials, they contend, is "confusingly similar" to the Zorro character.

Del Taco President Rob Petty said Tuesday that he doesn't understand the fuss.

"He's not Zorro," Petty said. "We didn't set out to copy Zorro. We did our homework out front making sure that we weren't stepping on any toes in this process. If they think we are, then I guess the legal system will determine that. In the meantime, we'll just keep selling tacos and burritos and running the ads."

Sony Pictures Entertainment, TriStar's parent company, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The ads, which spoof old spaghetti westerns, made their debut last month on television and radio promoting the chain's Macho Burrito line. The commercials take place in a Southwestern setting complete with dramatic musical score.

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