Visa gets Grinchy with AmEx

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Visa USA, San Francisco, is suing American Express Co., New York, accusing the company of infringing on Visa's sponsorship deal for the upcoming movie "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.'' The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claims AmEx used the Grinch character in a direct-mail holiday promotion to cardmembers. Visa last week launched a large contest promotion via Frankel, Chicago, called "Visa & the Grinch Give Back the Holidays,'' backed by TV and print ads from BBDO Worldwide, New York, as well as outdoor, in-store displays, online marketing and direct mail. In a statement, Visa said it took action to protect its investment in the promotion and its exclusive sponsorship deal with Universal Pictures. "The legal action being taken against American Express is to protect Visa's investment in our promotional efforts with 'Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas' and the integrity of our brand overall,'' the company explained. "We're currently in the process of discussing this issue with American Express representatives and are hopeful that all ambush marketing practices related to the Grinch will cease immediately.'' An AmEx spokeswoman said the company won't comment on pending litigation.

Copyright November 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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