An Ontario-based production company is engaging Oprah Winfrey's television network in a legal game of chicken over the name both have used to title reality programs focusing on friends frying up chicken wings.
Rags to Rick Productions Inc. filed a copyright infringement suit on Friday against OWN LLC in Chicago's federal court, accusing the network named after the former talk show host of ripping off the name of its online reality program "Wing-Men."
In its suit, Rags to Rick claims it has made continuous use of the Wing-Men trademark in its production of one, online streaming pilot and several other yet to be aired episodes of a show centered around Rick Smiciklas, who the production company describes as “an entrepreneur with little to his name when he opened his first chicken wing restaurant in 1999, who now owns a chain of chicken wing restaurants with over 100 locations.”
OWN, meanwhile, has its own reality show, also called “Wingmen,” that follows the exploits of “two best friends and their 'small-town food truck business selling a revolutionary twist on a culinary classic: stuffed chicken wings.'”
The complaint against OWN, a Los Angeles-based venture of Winfrey's Harpo Productions and the Discovery Channel, was filed on Aug. 15, the day before the hour-long premiere airing of OWN's show following Corey Simmons and Ramone Dickerson, the owners of the "2 Fat 2 Fly" food truck based in Columbia, South Carolina.
“OWN's use of the Wingmen mark in connection with its OWN Program is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or to deceive as to the origin of the OWN Program, and is likely to suggest falsely a sponsorship, connection, license or association of the OWN Program with the [Rags To Rick] Series, thereby injuring [Rags To Rick] and the public,” the suit asserts.
Rags to Rick argues that the Dec. 5, 2013 air date of its pilot episode and the Aug. 16 premiere of the OWN show, in addition to its ownership of website domains that include names like “wing-men.com,” “wingmentv.com,” and “wingmen.ca,” demonstrate willful copyright infringement on the part of OWN.
The production company's suit against OWN includes counts alleging copyright infringement, unfair competition and violations of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
“The actions of OWN have at all times relevant to this action been willful, in that OWN could, by searching records at the United States Patent Trademark Office or the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, easily have learned of [Rags To Rick's] activities and the existence of [Rags To Rick's] Wingmen marks,” the Canadian company argues.
In its unfair competition allegations, Rags to Rick claims that OWN caused irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy under the law.
“OWN misappropriated [Rags To Rick's] commercial advantage by using the Wingmen mark in commerce in connection with the promotion, marketing, or sale of entertainment services likely to cause confusion or mistake with [Rags to Rick's] Wingmen marks,” the company asserts.
Rags To Rick is asking Chicago's federal court to issue an order enjoining OWN from making any use of the “Wingmen” trademark or any variation thereof.
It also wants OWN to deliver it any products with the Wingmen mark on it for destruction, and remove any mention of the mark from the network's websites and other promotional materials, among other things.
Rags to Rick is being represented by Chicago attorneys Samuel Fifer, Tiffany L. Amlot, R. Cantrell Jones and Azi M. Lowenthal of Dentons US LLP.
As of today, electronic court records show no deadlines or hearings have been set and no attorneys for OWN have entered their appearance in the case.