(CN) – White Castle’s new social media campaign for chicken rings infringes on trademarked animation, JibJab Media says in Federal Court.
The burger chain launched an application called Jib Jab Chicken Rings via Facebook and Twitter in April to promote its new menu item, fried poultry in the shape of an onion ring, according to the complaint in Los Angeles.
JibJab Media says it was founded in 1999, and that its name “is a fanciful term, having no meaning other than its meaning as a trademark.” The Delaware-based company with offices in Venice, Calif., describes its logo as “old-fashioned caricatures of mustachioed men.” It says it has 28 million registered users, and that users have viewed personalized electronic greeting cards on the website more than 1.1 billion times.
“JibJab is well known for its photo cut-out animation style, in which JibJab creates cartoon images of characters with disproportionately large heads and where a cut-out image of the character’s jaw is animated to mimic talking and/or singing,” according to the complaint. Many animations created by JibJab contain comedic Victorian Old West-themed content.”
The resemblance between JibJab’s site and White Castle’s chicken rings application is uncanny, the company says.
“Not only does the ad campaign’s title use the JibJab mark, the ad’s online application copies the look and feel of JibJab’s well-known photo cut-out animation style with old-fashioned cariacatures of mustachioed men, disproportionately large heads, animated jaws and background staging similar to JibJab’s Victorian Old West themed web content,” according to the complaint.
The similarities are “no coincidence,” JibJab says.
“Indeed, during development of the advertisement, a solicitation for voiceover talent announced: ‘There are three White Castle spots that will be posted to White Castle’s Facebook page,” according to the complaint. “These will be jib jab style and facebook friends can upload their photos in the spots.'” (Capitalization in original.)
Advertisements for chicken ring also copy the JibJab stylized logo, according to the lawsuit.
JibJab says it has co-branded its content with clients such as Pepsi, OfficeMax, LucasFilms and others. But it says it never authorized or endorsed the Jib Jab Chicken Ring.
JibJab seeks $2 million in damages from White Castle Management for each counterfeited mark, plus treble damages and an injunction, for violations of the federal Lanham Act, trademark infringement and unfair competition.
It is represented by Eric Hagen of McDermott Will & Emery in Los Angeles.