NEW YORK – 50 Cent has sued Taco Bell, claiming the fast-food restaurant chain is using his name without permission in advertising that asks him to call himself 99 Cent.
The rapper says in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that the Mexican-themed chain features him in a print ad asking him to change his name to 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent. His real name is Curtis Jackson.
The rapper's court papers say the ad is part of Taco Bell's "Why Pay More?" campaign, which promotes items for under a dollar, including Cinnamon Twists for 79 cents, Crunchy Tacos for 89 cents and Bean Burritos for 99 cents. The papers say the Irvine, Calif.-based company sent a bogus letter requesting the name change to the news media but not to the rapper.
The rapper's lawyer, Peter D. Raymond, said his client didn't learn about the letter or that he was featured in the ad campaign until he saw a news report about it. Raymond said his client is seeking $4 million in damages.
Taco Bell Corp. spokesman Rob Poetsch issued a statement saying: "We made a good faith, charitable offer to 50 Cent to change his name to either 79, 89 or 99 Cent for one day by rapping his order at a Taco Bell, and we would have been very pleased to make the $10,000 donation to the charity of his choice."
This isn't the first time 50 Cent has sued over his name or image.
In July 2007, he filed a $1 million lawsuit accusing an Internet ad company of using his image without permission in a game called "Shoot the Rapper," in which the player pretends to shoot him.
The game shows 50 Cent walking in an ad across the top of a Web page while the viewer is encouraged to shoot him by aiming and clicking with the mouse, the rapper's court papers said; a successful shot results in a misty cloud of red, and then the viewer is directed to another Web page, where the ad firm's clients sell goods and services.
The rapper is a well-known victim of gun violence: He was shot outside his grandmother's Queens home in 2000 and rapped in one of his biggest hits, "In da Club," about being hit with a few shells.
The rapper has been nominated for 13 Grammys, including for the song "In da Club" and the album "Get Rich or Die Tryin'." In 2005, he starred with Terrence Howard in a semi-autobiographical movie based on that album. He also starred in the 2006 film "Home of the Brave" as a soldier returning home from Iraq.