• Paramount sued the makers of a pop-up restaurant that imitates one from "Coming to America". 
  • JMC Pop Ups build a McDowell's replica in what its owner called a "fan-made parody." 
  • In a running gag in the film, McDowell's is almost identical to McDonald's.

Paramount has taken legal action against a company that set up a pop-up restaurant inspired by an eatery in the 1988 Eddie Murphy film "Coming to America", a filing shows.

In the lawsuit, filed in the recently established Copyright Claims Board, Paramount accused JMC Pop Ups LLC of publicly performing, creating, reproducing, and displaying the work of "Coming to America."

In the film, Eddie Murphy's character crown prince Ak eem Joffer travels with his friend Semmi, played by Arsenio Hall, to the US to avoid an arranged marriage. He takes a job at McDowell's restaurant, where he falls in love with the owner's daughter.

The lawsuit mirrors a running gag in the film, where McDowell's owner Cleo McDowell complains and worries about potential legal action from McDonald's over his restaurant's striking similarity to the Golden Arches.

Saying he and "the McDonald's people got this little misunderstanding", McDowell (John Amos) frequently argued that there were no similarities to McDonald's. He pointed to his use of golden arcs, rather than arches, and their Big Mick, which is served in a seedless bun, as opposed to the Big Mac.

JMC would tour the restaurant around several US cities, with Paramount first citing an offending imitator in New Jersey in February this year. 

The film company also said there were McDowell's pop-ups in Springfield, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, near Philadelphia,  in May and June, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Paramount argued that despite repeated negotiations and requests to terminate the restaurant, JMC went ahead, causing "irreparable" harm. 

The lawsuit stated: "JMC misused Paramount Pictures' intellectual property to deceive parents and children into believing that the infringing restaurant is affiliated with, or authorized by, Paramount Pictures. To make matters worse, the quality of the food is in serious question, as consumers have reported feeling discomfort after eating [there]."

Asked by the Washingtonian in March if there was a potential trademark issue, restaurant owner Joe McCullough said: "I'm not a lawyer, but I have lawyers. I guess I don't want to get into legal and end up in trouble in your article."

Citing the idea of a "fan-made parody" through his conversation with the Washingtonian, he added: "We don't touch Coming to America. We more focus on the McDowell's aspect. You know, the parody of McDonald's."

Paramount is seeking $30,000 in damages, the maximum allowed by the court, and for JMC to cover the production company's legal fees.

John Powell, a lawyer representing JMC, told The Wall Street Journal: "The McDowell's pop-up was a creative celebration of a fake restaurant. JMC is disappointed by Paramount's heavy-handed response to fans of its films."

In 2018, a similar McDowell's pop-up was launched by Fat Sal's Hollywood, following a successful run in 2017.

Fat Sal's 2018 pop-up paid similar homage to McDowell's. Foto: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

JMC didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment made outside normal working hours.

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