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Lakers Star Sues Del Taco Over Radio Ads

Litigation: Shaquille O'Neal alleges that the Mexican fast-food chain's 'Shaq Johnson' campaign implied his endorsement.

March 01, 2001|From Bloomberg News

Closely held Del Taco Inc. faces a lawsuit by Shaquille O'Neal, who contends that the Mexican fast-food chain falsely implied in radio advertisements that it had been endorsed by the All-Star Lakers center.

The Laguna Hills chain ran a radio advertising campaign from March through April 2000 that featured a character named "Shaq Johnson." O'Neal alleges that the ads "were unlawful attempts to exploit the considerable value" of his name and infringed his registered "Shaq" trademark.

Del Taco used the Shaq Johnson character "with the intent to deceive and defraud the public and falsely convey that Mr. O'Neal has endorsed Del Taco's products," the lawsuit contends.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges trademark infringement, false advertisement and endorsement, invasion of privacy and misappropriation of a person's name or likeness for commercial purposes.

O'Neal seeks unspecified general and punitive damages. Michael Annis, Del Taco general counsel, said he had yet to be served with the lawsuit and declined to comment. The company's ad agency, Portland-based Red Monkey Ads & Ideas, was also named as a defendant.

Del Taco, which has most of its 300 restaurants in California, is the second-largest Mexican fast-food chain in the U.S. after Taco Bell Corp. in Irvine.

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