Mascot Battle Plays Out in California Federal Court. Corporate mascots are usually goofy cartoon characters that come to life, but they’re serious business. They’re part of a company’s brand, and that’s worth defending if someone else is illegally copying it. Restaurant chain Jack in the Box is taking on the owners of FTX US, which operates a cryptocurrency trading app, claiming its Moon Man mascot is a cheap copy of its Jack Box.
Jack in the Box filed a lawsuit in US District Court for the Southern District of California for unspecified damages and a court order that Moon Man be forever eclipsed and disappear. Jack in the Box alleges FTX infringed on their common law trademark rights when it created, used, and publicized Moon Man. If that wasn’t bad enough, the fast food chain claims FTX did a lousy job of copying Jack, calling it far inferior, tarnishing Jack in the Box’ reputation, and confusing consumers.
Do You Know Jack?
Jack in the Box dates back to 1951 but used humor and its current Jack to impact the modern world of fast food. Jack Box became famous in 1995, thanks to creator Rick Sittig, and was featured in TV commercials. Jack Box was portrayed as a humorous but non-nonsense businessman voiced by Sittig.
The chain claims Moon Man is too similar to Jack, including
- A spherical white head on a human, talking body
- Blue dotted eyes
- A nose
- A curvy smile
- Their behavior: Both talk, change facial expressions and clothing
How similar are they? Decide for yourself:
Jack in the Box: FTX Has Lots of Money. It Can Pay for Its Own Mascot
FTX was launched in 2019 by Sam Bankman, a 29-year-old reportedly worth $26.5 billion. Jack in the Box claims their Moon Man is partially responsible for his wealth. The character has appeared in TV ads during some Major League Baseball games, which shouldn’t be surprising since the company is one of the league’s official sponsors. Jack in the Box claims FTX should’ve used its resources to develop an original mascot instead of copying Jack.
Mascots, Trademark Law, and Lawsuits
Mascots are often the subjects of trademark infringement disputes:
- A Canadian marijuana dispensary, Budway, was successfully sued by sandwich chain Subway, in part because of its use of an image of a stoned, half-eaten sandwich
- Colleges and universities will send cease-and-desist letters to high schools if they believe their logos and mascots are being infringed
- The Philadelphia Phillies’ mascot, the Phanatic, one of the most successful in US professional sports, first prowled Veterans Stadium in 1978, but the team didn’t initially buy the trademark rights to him. In 2019 the Phillies sued the company that developed the mascot to continue to use him. The team altered the Phanatic’s look due to the lawsuit, but since it was settled, he’s back to his original form
- The Chicago Cubs had enough of a group of people it claimed used a bogus mascot costume, participated in “inappropriate and unsavory actions” near Wrigley Field, charged fans for pictures, and started bar fights. The team sued them in 2021 in federal court for presenting the character (“Billy Cub,” a bear with a Cubs hat and a gray jersey) for trademark infringement and attempting to represent the team without their permission. The defendants allegedly walked around the ballpark, trying to have photos taken with fans while carrying a cooler marked “Tips.” The defendants later settled the case, agreeing to stop their activities
Whether it’s a logo, a slogan, or a mascot, if your brand has trademark protection, it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t protect it. Don’t waste your investment, or worse – spend money helping another company, without calling our office so we can create and execute a legal strategy that will put this problem behind you.
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