IHOP sues church that calls itself IHOP
Glendale-based IHOP has served up a federal lawsuit against a church with ministries in Pasadena and elsewhere, alleging International House of Prayer is violating its trademark.
The suit asks International House of Prayer to stop using “IHOP” and similar phrases, and seeks to have the court give the Web address ihop.org to the restaurant chain.
Officials at the church, based in Kansas City, Mo., declined to comment. In a statement, church officials said they were aware of the lawsuit and reviewing the claims.
IHOP spokesman Patrick Lenow said it is unusual for the company to file a lawsuit but that it wants to protect the assets of its 1,500 locations and the 350 franchisees who own most of them.
“It is certainly not our intent to harm International House of Prayer,” the International House of Pancakes spokesman said. “We do think there is confusion out there. A simple Google search supports that.”
In addition to protecting the trademark, Lenow said the company does not want to leave its customers with the impression that it supports a particular church or faith.
“We support freedom of religion, and we wouldn’t want improper use of our name to support one faith over the others,” he said.
Before filing the lawsuit, Lenow said, the company contacted church officials numerous times asking them to stop.
“They refused,” Lenow said.
The lawsuit points out that the first International House of Pancakes — part of Glendale-based DineEquity Inc. — opened in Toluca Lake in 1958, and the first ad campaign using the term “IHOP” was launched in 1973.
Four churches affiliated with International House of Prayer are in California: Pasadena, Santa Maria, San Jose and Dublin.
The church was founded in 1999, according to its website. The site notes that the phrase “house of prayer” appears in the Old Testament, and it refers to the Kansas City church as IHOP-KC. The Pasadena International House of Prayer’s website is pihop.com.
Lenow said the restaurant company seeks no money from the church aside from litigation costs and merely wants it to stop using the phrase in all its forms.
“I hope this reaches an amicable conclusion,” Lenow said. “We just want to end the confusion.”