Lobster pinches crab in casino buffet ad dispute
February 21, 2012
An all-you-can-eat buffet advertising flap between a North County Indian gaming
tribe and an East County one has ended with the lobster claw crushing the snow crab.
The Viejas Band of Mission Indians in December agreed to stop advertising its all
you-can-eat snow crab buffet using a "Pinch Yourself" campaign after the tribe that
operates the Valley View Casino filed a federal lawsuit arguing the crab promotion
was a direct rip-off of its all-you-can-eat lobster buffet campaign created years
Filed last summer and dismissed two months ago, the lawsuit was brought by the San
Pasqual Band of Mission Indians, which operates the successful Valley View Casino
and Hotel in Valley Center. It states that in September 2009, the casino launched
its Pinch Yourself lobster buffet campaign that shows a lobster pinching the P in
"Pinch." Advertisements displaying the lobster appeared and continue to appear in
many magazines, billboards, T-shirts, newsletters and various websites.
"Last year, Viejas started promoting an all-you-can-eat snow crab buffet that too
showed claws pinching the word "pinch." "As a result of (Valley View's) use of its
PINCH YOURSELF mark, (Valley View's) all-you-can-eat lobster buffet has been a resounding
success, and consumers have come to recognize PINCH YOURSELF as an indicator of
Plaintiff's goods and services," the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit also said that in February of last year, Valley View began airing two
TV advertisements for the casino and resort that were shot in a style designed to
"evoke particular moods and create the sense that Plaintiff's casino is sophisticated,
indulgent, luxurious, opulent, and sexy." They referred to the ads as the "L'Amore
Commercials." The ads have run thousands of times throughout the Southern California
The "Pinch Yourself" and L'Amore campaigns have led to a number of awards from gaming
magazines for best overall gaming resort and best buffet, according to tribe's lawyers.
On Aug. 3, of 2011, according to the suit, the Viejas Casino in Alpine began an
advertising campaign marketing an all-you-can-eat snow crab buffet also using a
"Pinch Yourself" promotion. A month earlier, according to the lawsuit, Viejas started
airing a TV commercial that was strikingly similar in style and filming methods
to Valley View's L'Amore ads.
In August, Valley View sent letters to Viejas regarding infringement and misappropriation
of the campaigns and asked Viejas to stop both. Valley View said the Viejas ads
were causing them harm because they created confusion on the part of consumers in
the highly competitive local casino market.
Viejas refused to pull the ads.
However, in December, the lawsuit was dismissed at the request of Valley View's
attorneys after a Viejas administrator signed a declaration stating that Viejas
Casino "does not presently plan to restart those advertisements, although it may
do so in the future."
The lobster won.