A TGI Friday’s franchisee was sued over its promotion for “never ending shrimp” by Darden Restaurants, the owner of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden brands, claiming that the shrimp promotion infringes its “never ending pasta bowl” (at the Olive Garden) and “endless shrimp” (at Red Lobster) trademarks.

The Florida-based Darden began using the “never ending pasta bowl” in 1995 for an all-you-can-eat selection of pasta menu items and promotions, which became one of the most successful promotions offered at the Olive Garden, according to the complaint.

Describing itself as one of the largest advertisers in the United States, Darden said it typically runs a television ad campaign for seven weeks for the never ending pasta bowl, and has aired the ad nationally more than 36,000 times over 130 weeks. Red Lobster also periodically runs all-you-can-eat shrimp promotions using a similar “never ending” mark, which commenced close to the time the defendant’s promotion began, the suit notes.

According to the complaint, San Diego-area TGI Friday’s began running a “never ending shrimp” promotion in August, and Darden objected as soon as it learned of it.

Although TGI Friday’s halted its television ad campaign after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Darden, it continued its promotion inside the restaurants with signage, a menu insert, and through recommendations from servers to customers, the suit claims. The suit alleges trademark infringement and a violation of California’s unfair competition law, and seeks injunctive relief to halt the TGI Friday’s promotion.

Darden also seeks treble damages, including profits from the “never ending shrimp” promotion for the defendant’s willful trademark infringement.

To read the complaint in Darden Concepts Inc. v. Briad Restaurant Group, click here.

Why it matters: Darden carefully protects its marks. The company filed suit in 2004 against a competitor when it ran a never ending meal promotion. The suit settled but the terms were undisclosed.