App creator says IHOP parent stole his ‘Pancake Pile’ game idea

Customers outside an IHOP restaurant in Compton.
Customers outside an IHOP restaurant in Compton.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The creator of a pancake-catching game app says IHOP’s parent company stole his idea and put a similar game on the chain’s website.

Michael Levinson sued DineEquity Inc. this week, accusing the IHOP franchiser of creating its own version of his “Pancake Pile” app after first negotiating to put his game on its website.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accused DineEquity of violating an “implied contract” with Levinson to use his “Pancake Pile” game.

DineEquity spokesman Craig Hoffman declined to comment, saying the company does not publicly discuss pending litigation.

“Pancake Pile” is available for 99 cents on iTunes. The game awards points to players who catch and stack pancakes on a plate.


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Levinson said he met with DineEquity in 2011 and offered to allow the company to put his game on the IHOP website, “a novel co-marketing idea that could benefit both IHOP and Levinson,” the lawsuit said.

He said he met with DineEquity’s marketing company, but was told in January 2012 that the firm was “in the middle of other initiatives right now and can’t take on another project.”

In 2013, without Levinson’s knowledge or authorization, DineEquity placed a similar game on its website called “Pancake Pile-Up,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

DineEquity is based in Glendale and franchises more than 3,500 IHOP and Applebee’s restaurants worldwide.


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