Advertising Law

Taco Bell Loses Chihuahua Dispute as it Fights 50 Cent Ad Suit

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A federal appeals court has ruled that Taco Bell—and not its ad agency—is responsible for paying $42 million in damages and interest to two cartoonists who claimed the fast-food giant stole their Chihuahua idea.

Two Michigan men claimed they were talking to Taco Bell advertising agents about use of their “psycho Chihuahua” image for television pitches when the restaurant chain took the idea to a different agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day, the Los Angeles Times reports. A federal jury awarded the men $30 million and a judge added $12 million in interest.

The talking dog’s demand, “Yo quiero Taco Bell,” became famous and catapulted the Chihuahua into roles on Geico TV commercials and in the second Legally Blonde movie.

After the judgment, Taco Bell sued TBWA, claiming the ad agency was responsible for paying the money. But the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, the story says. The ruling was a defeat for the two law firms representing Taco Bell: Arent Fox and Stein, Ray & Harris, the American Lawyer reports.

Taco Bell ads continue to generate legal controversy. A suit by rapper 50 Cent claims Taco Bell infringed his trademark in a recent ad campaign. The suit cites a Taco Bell letter offering to donate $10,000 to a charity of the rapper’s choice if he would change his name to 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent by rapping his order at a drive-through.

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