By Sheila Fox Morrison

AFC Enterprises has asked the court to confirm that it may continue to use the POPEYES name after its licensing agreement with Hearst Corp., which owns the rights to the Popeye the Sailor cartoon character, expires.

The complaint reads: “The Agreement was never intended to and never has restricted AFC’s ability to use the name POPEYES® for its restaurant services as evidenced by paragraph two of the 2009 Amendment to the Agreement, which states: “WHEREAS, The Hearst Corporation, King Features Syndicate Division, (“Hearst”) and A. Copeland Enterprises, Inc. entered into an agreement dated March 11, 1976 relating inter alia to the use of the POPEYE cartoon in connection with POPEYES restaurants inside of the United States (the “Domestic Agreement”).” A plain reading of this agreement indicates that the Agreement only contemplated the use of the Popeye cartoon characters in connection with POPEYES® restaurants, therefore making a clear distinction between the Popeye cartoon character(s) and POPEYES® restaurants.

The case is AFC Enterprises Inc. v. The Hearst Corp. et al., case number 1:11-cv-04150, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.