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Name Games: IHOP vs. IHOP


The owners of the restaurant chain have nothing against the International House of Prayer, except its acronymic name.

Imagine one day you get a hankering for a steaming stack of hotcakes. You make a bee line for IHOP (DIN). But before you can say "Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity" your waitress is speaking in tongues and your cup overfloweth with the Holy Spirit. Chances are you have inadvertently pulled up a chair at the other IHOP -- the International House of Prayer. That might work out well for you, but for the International House of Pancakes it represents lost revenue. So they are suing.

You wouldn't think a person could get those two franchises confused. But for the IHOP restaurant chain, the fight to win converts from Denny's is complicated enough without waffling over religious issues. And the two IHOPs may indeed have a couple of things in common.

International House of Prayer was founded 10 years ago by Mike Bickle, a man who claims to have visited Heaven twice.

Neither experience began with fresh blueberry pancakes, but like the original IHOP, the religious version does offer 24 hour service. Last year the Kansas City-based charismatic church celebrated the 10th year of a single continuous worship service.

To further confuse the issue, the pancake chain claims that some branches of the church have begun serving food. IHOP could retaliate by emphasizing that a hot Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream can truly be a religious experience. But they have opted for legal action instead.

IHOP (pancake version) insists they seek no financial penalties in the suit, filed recently in a California federal court. They are asking only that the International House of Prayer stop calling itself IHOP, the longstanding trademark of the famous flapjack franchise. The suit claims that the Kansas City-based church "selected and adopted the International House of Prayer name, knowing it would be abbreviated as IHOP. IHOP-KC intended to misappropriate the fame and notoriety of the household name IHOP to help promote and make recognizable their religious organization."

If that was the plan it seems to have been working. Bickle's church has been growing steadily with its continuous worship and apocalyptic message. The ministry has announced plans for a new $150 million world headquarters in Kansas City that will include an IHOP University and a 5,000-seat conference center. At press time, representatives from the church had not yet responded to allegation made in the claim.

Win or lose, the publicity generated by the lawsuit has already brought plenty of extra attention to the church. Battling the restaurant chain's high-powered legal team could be a losing proposition, though, meaning that a new name may soon be required. Possibilities abound -- The Old Salvation Factory, perhaps. Or, considering the location, Kansas For Christ. The acronym would be catchy.

Not Served at IHOP: Jesus Pancakes.

In December 2010, the International House of Pancakes dropped the charges against the IHOP church.

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