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Carl’s Jr. has a beef with Jack in the Box advertising

Times Staff Writer

Carl’s Jr. doesn’t like being the butt of Jack’s jokes.

So CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, sued Jack in the Box Inc. in federal court in Santa Ana on Friday, accusing the San Diego-based chain of deceptive advertising relating to the business end of a cow.

The suit cites TV ads that tout Jack in the Box’s sirloin burgers and lampoon those made with Angus beef, which happens to be what’s in the Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger and the Hardee’s Thickburger (and in premium burgers sold at McDonald’s and Burger King).

In one ad, Jack, the mascot whose head looks like an upside-down ice cream cone, is asked to point to a cow’s “angus area” on a diagram. He says sheepishly: “I’d rather not.”

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In the other, employees laugh hysterically when a colleague talks about rivals’ “Angus burgers.”

The suit contends the ads give burger lovers a bum steer.

“While Defendant may find humorous the aural and phonetic similarities between the words ‘Angus’ and ‘anus,’ ” the suit says, the link is made to create “the erroneous notion that all cuts of Angus beef are derived from the anus of beef cattle.”

Customers of Carpenteria-based CKE have actually asked why it charges $6 for a burger made from a cow’s bottom, Chief Executive Andy Puzder said.

Puzder relished the idea of taking on Jack in the Box. “If they want to have a war we will take the gloves off,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Jack in the Box said she couldn’t comment because the suit had only just been filed.

The suit, which claims that Jack’s sirloin burgers are made from “frozen sirloin butt meat,” seeks unspecified damages and asks that Jack in the Box run “corrective advertising.”

Will a jury agree that CKE has a legitimate beef?

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“When you are dealing with ad content that is clearly intended to be funny, the courts give more protection to the advertiser,” said Kelli Sager, a partner at Davis, Wright Tremaine, which is also The Times’ outside counsel.

The ads were made by Secret Weapon Marketing of Santa Monica. Chief Creative Officer Dick Sittig told Adweek magazine that their humor was “no more crude than a middle-school joke about the planets,” adding, “or one planet in particular.”

alana.semuels@latimes.com


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