MANHATTAN (CN) – Rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) demands millions of dollars from Taco Bell for using his trademark name in a nationwide ad campaign that features a bogus letter that asks him to change his name to 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent to advertise a Taco Bell special.
Jackson claims the hip-hop themed ad campaign violates his trademark, violates his civil rights, falsely implies that he endorses Taco Bell, and unjustly enriched the corporation. A copy of the “letter” is attached to the federal lawsuit.
“The ‘letter’ was nothing more than a print ad highlighting Jackson’s name, persona and trademarks to promote Taco Bell’s new hip-hop-based ad campaign. For example, Taco Bell’s Web site offered a ‘Rap Name Creator,’ which permitted users to enter their name, gender, and other characteristics and see what their ‘Rap Name’ would be. The Web site also offered a ‘Why Pay Mo’ Rhyme Generator,’ which played hip-hop music and displayed a montage of hip-hop-themes scenes,” the complaint states.
“Thus, without authorization, Taco Bell traded on the name of the world’s biggest hip-hop star to draw attention to its new, hip-hop based advertising campaign, and thereby generated massive publicity for its business. In ‘guerrilla advertising’ fashion, Taco Bell stole – rather than paid for – the endorsement of mega-celebrity Jackson, and then disseminated it for free through the press, rather than paying for advertising time. However, Taco Bell violated federal and state law when it traded on Jackson’s name, persona, and federally registered trademarks without any authorization.”
Jackson is represented by Peter Raymond with Reed Smith.