Sony Wants to Put the Brakes On a 'Ricky Bobby' Saloon

Ricky Bobby Saloon - H 2014
Courtesy of Ricky Bobby Sports Saloon & Restaurant

Ricky Bobby Saloon - H 2014

According to Sony Pictures, there's a sports-themed restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas where the waitresses are known as "Smokin' Hotties" and wear midriff- and cleavage-bearing crop tops and short skirts.

The name of this establishment is "Ricky Bobby Sports Saloon & Restaurant," which is of concern to the studio behind the 2006 Will Ferrell comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. On Thursday, Sony filed a trademark lawsuit in Texas federal court.

The defendant is the publicly-traded corporation Rick's Cabaret International, which according to the lawsuit (read here), set out to change the landscape of adult entertainment venues two decades ago. Now, the company has over 40 (mostly topless) nightclubs across the country and has north of $112 million in revenue.

Sony sees prime meat for a smoking' hot intellectual property dispute.

The lawsuit cites a July 29, 2013 article in the Dallas Observer as evidence that reps for the saloon company used "Ricky Bobby" as a direct reference to the film. One official is cited by the newspaper as saying that proper names can't be trademarked -- which Sony says is an "erroneous belief."

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But the studio's complaint is mostly built upon making the case that Rick's Cabaret is misleading consumers about the source of origin for the Ricky Bobby Sports Saloon. Among its points:

  • The restaurant features a full-size replica car that is "nearly identical to the Chevrolet Monte Carlo race car driven by the Ricky Bobby character in the Picture as his “Me” comeback car."
  • Inside the establishment there's a picture with the phrase "If you ain't first...," which Sony says is a direct reference to its Ricky Bobby character’s lifelong mantra “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
  • The drink items include "Talladega Punch" and "Comin' at Ya Like a Spider Monkey," which is a character's line in the movie.

Sony also observes that in Talladega Nights, Ferrell repeatedly refers to his spouse as a "Smokin' Hot Wife." Hence, those waitresses.

According to the lawsuit, Sony wasn't asked permission by Rick's Cabaret to do any of this. That's no good, it says. Sony has licensed Talladega rights to others. For example, Sony says it authorized NASCAR driver Kurt Busch to use an "image and likeness" of Ricky Bobby's "Me" car in 2012 and then a Wonder Bread-sponsored car the following year.

Sony says that the enterprise threatens the continued success of Talladega Nights. The film grossed $163 million in theaters, $161 million in DVD sales and a good amount of revenue from endless repeats on TBS and Comedy Central. According to the lawsuit, Sony generates about $3.45 million each year from broadcast television licensing.

Sony demands an injunction, the restaurant's profits, forfeiture of web domain names and unspecified punitive and exemplary damages.

Right now, Sony hasn't opened up any of its own Ricky Bobby restaurants. (If the studio had done so, the highly-detailed complaint surely would have mentioned it.) But it would be unwise to rule out such a possibility. For precedent, see Viacom and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

Rick's Cabaret declined comment.


Twitter: @eriqgardner