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Jack's Angus ads rile CKE

CKE Restaurants doesn’t like being the butt of Jack in the Box’s joke, so the owner of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. is taking its beef to court, demanding that the rival burger chain pull a series of ads making fun of Angus beef.

In the process, CKE focused even more attention on Jack in the Box’s Angus ads, which in a bit of middle-school locker-room humor deliberately confuse the word “Angus” with the similar word for one’s rear-end. Publicity about the suit, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, has given the regional chain’s ads a national audience.

Still, the California-based CKE said that the Jack in the Box ads have an impact well beyond a simple joke and instead mislead consumers about Angus beef. By mistaking the word “Angus” for “anus,” the ads make it sound like the Angus burgers come from a part of the cow. Angus in fact refers to a breed of cattle—the Black Angus. A judge in July denied CKE’s request that the ads be pulled.

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. started using Angus beef in 2003. Other chains, including Burger King, also use Angus in premium burgers. McDonald’s is testing an Angus burger. “Hopefully, we’re making consumers aware that the commercials are misleading,” said Anne Hallock, a CKE spokeswoman.

The California-based Jack in the Box is well known for its edgy advertisements designed to amuse the fast food restaurants’ target market: young men. Ads have included takeoffs on the TV show COPS, high school memories and boy bands.

The Angus ads, developed by California-based Secret Weapon Marketing, push Jack’s sirloin burgers. In one ad, Jack, the company’s fictional CEO who sports an oversized cylindrical white head with a smiley face and pointy hat atop a suited body, points to the sirloin area in a diagram of beef cuts on a cow. A company executive then asks Jack to point to the “angus area.” After a pause, Jack says, “I’d rather not.” In another ad, a presenter’s head partially covers the ‘g’ on the word “Angus” on an overhead presentation while executives in attendance laugh hysterically.

The ads have become popular destinations on YouTube, with some of them receiving tens of thousands of views in the days after word of the lawsuit was made public.

Judge rules for ex-Atlanta Bread franchisee

A judge in Georgia ruled in favor of a former Atlanta Bread Company franchisee who sued the company after having his franchise agreement terminated for opening what the company said was a competing restaurant.

Sean Lupton-Smith, who owned five Atlanta Bread Company locations, including two busy stores in the Atlanta airport, filed a lawsuit last year after his franchise agreement was terminated. Atlanta Bread said Lupton-Smith violated his non-compete clause by opening PJ’s Coffee—a New Orleans-based coffee franchise.

Randy Edwards, Lupton-Smith’s attorney, said the PJ’s Lupton-Smith opened in Atlantic Station, Ga., was more of a bar-lounge than a coffee shop.

Lupton-Smith sued and in June a circuit court judge in Marietta, Ga., agreed with the franchisee. Robinson said the non-compete restriction in the franchise agreement didn’t align with Georgia law because it was too broad.

The restriction did not have a territorial limit, so Lupton-Smith would have been in violation regardless of the location of the PJ’s. Nor did it restrict what the franchisee could do for the competition, so, the judge said, he could not have been so much as a janitor with a competing coffee shop. “It’s a big victory not only for my client but for all Atlanta Bread Company franchisees, all of whom have non-compete covenants in their agreements,” Edwards said.

Atlanta Bread is appealing the decision.

Chambers rates franchising firms

Chambers and Partners, the British-based publisher of legal directories, has started including franchise attorneys and law firms in its rankings.

At the top of the Chambers USA franchise law firm rankings was DLA Piper, the world’s third largest law firm that one commentator in the Chambers ranking called “the 1,000-pound gorilla in the franchise bar.” Overall, Chambers listed 21 firms among four “bands,” with Band 1 being the top ranking—DLA Piper was the only firm to be listed in the top band.

“Band 2” firms include franchisee law firm Dady & Garner, Haynes and Boone, Nixon Peabody, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and Wiggin & Dana.

Chambers also listed 43 individual franchising attorneys, led by Michael Dady of Dady & Garner, Edward Wood Dunham from Wiggin & Dana, and Dennis Wieczorek and Philip Zeidman, both from DLA Piper—all four of whom are Franchise Times Legal Eagles.

Chambers makes its rankings based on interviews by a team of more than 50 researchers, along with submissions by practices and its own database.

Feirman joins Nixon Peabody

Steven Feirman has left DLA Piper to become a partner at the Washington D.C., office of Nixon Peabody.

Feirman, who will be co-leader of Nixon Peabody’s franchise and distribution practice, has handled international franchise and antitrust issues for nearly 20 years.

Coffee Beanery wins arbitration case

An arbitrator recently awarded Michigan-based franchise The Coffee Beanery $144,000, turning aside Maryland franchisees’ complaints that they had been misled into buying an unproven concept.

Deborah and Richard Williams opened their Coffee Beanery franchise in 2004 but never turned a profit, and alleged in a request for arbitration that the company “duped” them into buying an unproven “café” concept rather than the original coffee shop. The arbitrator disagreed, saying the company had “no intent to mislead” the franchisees and had tried to help them work through their problems.

The arbitrator then agreed to The Coffee Beanery’s counterclaims for past-due royalties, attorney’s fees and accounting fees.

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