Friday, July 25, 2008

50 Cent Files Lawsuit Tellling Taco Bell Why It Should Pay More

Rapper 50 Cent is suing Taco Bell
50 Cent is well on his way to setting a new world record.

Not for the number of lawsuits filed by the same sorry you-know-what rapper claiming infringement of intellectual property rights. Naw, Fiddy is about to grab the brass ring for all-time record number of news organizations running the same sorry you-know-what AP story describing his lame lawsuit against Taco Bell.

Just goes to show no one really wants to spend any time doing an in-depth piece on this poo.

In fact, his lawsuit against Yum Brands, Inc. (YUM), owner of the popular Taco Bell chain, may go down in history as one of the most sorry you-know-what meritless pieces of groundless drivel ever filed in a U.S. District Court. Can't wait to see the fallout from this one and just hoping those Yummy suits know how to file a super-sized counterclaim for utterly baseless blather.

I mean, how many times am I supposed to read,

50 Cent has sued Taco Bell, claiming the fast-food restaurant chain is using his name without permission in advertising that asks him to call himself 99 Cent.

The rapper says in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that the Mexican-themed chain features him in a print ad asking him to change his name to 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent. His real name is Curtis Jackson.

The rapper's court papers claim the ad is part of Taco Bell's "Why Pay More?" campaign, which promotes items for under a dollar, including Cinnamon Twists for 79 cents, Crunchy Tacos for 89 cents and Bean Burritos for 99 cents. The papers say the Irvine, Calif.-based company sent a bogus letter requesting the name change to the news media but not to the rapper.
without going lollipop bonkers?

Thank heaven for a slight amount of originality.

If anyone in the world has actually seen the offending advertisement, they're doing an amazing job of keeping it off the Internet. I can't say for certain, but I'm willing to lay odds it's in the style of other publicized open letters, none of which could easily be characterized as an unauthorized advertisment. As long as the ad didn't contain Fiddy's likeness or copyrighted material, Yummy is in the clear.

As for providing a copy of the open letter to news outlets before sending it off to Fiddy, what's the harm? Does he really think that's going to prove Taco Bell didn't intend to make good on its offer? That they were staging a sly publicity stunt?

Uh, yeah, good luck with that argument. Sorry, but it isn't going to fly. I wouldn't be surprised if the judge laughed Fiddy's sorry you-know-what straight out of court.

Oooo. Four million dollars claimed, shakedown for one. He must be down to his last "fiddy" cents if he's going down this lane. And the ridicule he claims is everywhere on the Internet? Let's just say it's less about Taco Bell using his image without permission and more about his sorry you-know-what performances at rich kids' Bar Mitzvahs and sorry you-know-what albums with the same tired you-know-what lyrics. Fiddy has milked getting shot so many times even his fans are sick of listening to him. In other words, his fans were calling him a sellout long before Taco Bell came along.

Loss of his fan base, disappointing album sales, a suspicious fire, massive legal bills connected to the controversy with his baby momma. A culmination of problems like this could easily take its toll.

Fiddy should have made good on his vow to leave the recording business rather than become fodder for the 'bloids. I almost feel sorry for him, then get angry thinking about his lawsuit clogging up the court system.

Fiddy's odds of winning this lawsuit are so astronimically low as to make me question the motives of his legal team. Lawsuits like this give lawyers a bad name. Principled lawyers would have talked their client out of such nonsense, but then nothing surprises me when it comes to celebrities.

I'm not into fast food so it took a short while to get up to speed, but from what I can see, a fast food rap video caught wildfire a couple years back. Since then, hordes of aspiring rappers have taken their lyrics to the street, pulling into drive-through lines and rapping away. Taco Bell capitalized on the craze by crafting a "Why Pay More" ad campaign and reducing the cost of certain menu items to under a dollar.

Smart marketing or foreshadowing SNAFU?

Some suit whose job is probably now on the line ratcheted up the ad campaign to create more buzz. An open letter to down and out Fiddy was a win-win idea with virtually no downside. Fiddy's career would have benefited. On the other hand, waves of negativity had already rippled through the blogosphere, charging the ad campaign with racial insensitivity. At that point, leaving well enough alone might have been a good idea, but corporate is not the type to sit on its laurels.

The First Amendment protects a published open letter that doesn't otherwise infringe on intellectual property rights. Even then Fiddy's claims might be difficult to prove, especially alleged damages of four million dollars. If for some crazy reason this lawsuit moves forward, 50 Cent can expect to lose a lot more in lawyer fees than he could ever expect to gain.

To illustrate the lawsuit's frivolity, I'll leave you with a slew of videos mimicking the popular spoof that likely started it all. If Fiddy thinks Taco Bell's "Why Pay More" campaign was somehow modeled after him or his rap music, maybe it's because his sorry you-know-what lawyers couldn't tell him apart from the guy in this Burger King video.

You know how them gangsta rappers all look 'like.








Update: It boggles my mind how many news organizations are still reporting this lawsuit using the same boring AP story. One blogger at last provided useful links to the actual lawsuit and trademark information. Kudos to Corpreform, a nice play on words.

Trademark infringement is a specialized area of law. Nuances are many. Still, I have not changed my opinion. This lawsuit is likely a thinly disguised ploy for publicity, an infuriatingly unnecessary clog in the court system. Trademark does not necessarily require prior permission to publicize words in an issued mark. The manner in which the words are used is key. That is where 50 Cent's legal team went down the mistaken path.

Yes, Fiddy has the rights to a mark that includes the words "50" and "Cent," but that does not preclude people from using the printed words "50 Cent" in a normal manner. Only the mark itself is protected, and believe me, there is a difference. Otherwise, every person in the world would trademark their name or stage name, requiring prior permission from anyone wanting to use said name in a third party manner. See how ridiculous?

To date, I have not seen a reprint of the original print advertisement, but would guess we're still referring only to the letter reviewed by reporters. In that case the lawsuit is frivolous as panned and the sooner kicked out of court the better.