Glendale-based IHOP has served up a federal lawsuit against a church with ministries in Pasadena and elsewhere, alleging the 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," said International House of Pancakes spokesman Patrick Lenow. "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 church officials were contacted numerous times and asked to stop.
"They refused," Lenow said.
The lawsuit points out that the first International House of Pancakes, which is part of Glendale-based DineEquity Inc., opened in Toluca Lake in 1958, and the first ad campaign pushing the term IHOP launched in 1973.
The church was founded in 1999, according to its website. The site notes the phrase "house of prayer" appears in the Old Testament, and refers to the Kansas City facility as IHOP-KC, while the Pasadena International House of Prayer's website is pihop.com.
Lenow said the restaurant company seeks no money from the church outside litigation costs, and merely wants to stop the church from using the phrase in all its forms.
"I hope this reaches an amicable conclusion," Lenow said. "We just want to end the confusion."