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Pizza chain sued for Rockwell-themed ads

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The owners of the rights to Normal Rockwell art are suing a Michigan-based pizza company for re-creating a famous painting to sell pizzas during the holidays.

The Saturday Evening Post Society, Inc. and Curtis Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis companies, filed a lawsuit June 3 in U.S. District Court against Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs and other defendants for creating and publishing a number of variations on Rockwell's "Freedom From Want" panting. The Hungry Howie's advertisements replicated the familiar scene of a family gathered around a table at Thanksgiving, but replaced the turkey with a Hungry Howie's pizza box. Curtis Publishing owned the copyrights to the painting until May 1, 2010, when the Saturday Evening Post Society purchased them.

Curtis learned in November 2009 that Hungry Howie's had created a multi-state advertising campaign using a version of Rockwell's famous painting. The company never received permission to recreate the image, so Curtis requested the pizza company stop using the ads. The ads continued to run through the holiday season.

Curtis and the Saturday Evening Post Society filed their suit in the Indianapolis Division, seeking injunctive relief, damages, and a jury trial. The companies claim Hungry Howie's has committed copyright infringement and conversion, received unjust enrichment, and violated Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act.

Also named as defendants in the suit, The Saturday Evening Post Society, Inc., et al. v. Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs, Inc., et al., No. 1:10-CV-680, are the owners and operators of various Hungry Howie's franchises, and a Michigan-based advertising agency.

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