Counterfeit Restaurants Open In China
Counterfeit versions of luxury handbags, watches, and designer apparel are a familiar headache for trademark owners around the world. Now, CNN reports that counterfeit restaurants are opening in China.
Yenn Wong, who co-founded the Chachawan Isaan Thai and Bar in Hong Kong, was startled when a friend sent her images of another Chachawan restaurant, this one in Shanghai. People posted queries to her Facebook page asking about her new restaurant branch.
The Shanghai restaurant’s design was very similar to that of Wong’s Hong Kong restaurant. The menu’s focus, “northeastern Thai cuisine,” was also similar.
Most telling was the Shanghai restaurant’s sign, which copied the unique font and logo that Wong had created for her restaurant.
After Wong objected, the copycat restaurant changed its name to StreeTHAi.
Bootleg Cuisine & Commerce
This is not the only instance of a “bootleg” version of a Chinese restaurant. Uncle Rikuro, a Japanese cheesecake shop, discovered that its name and business model was being copied without permission in a number of Chinese cities.
And at least 22 fake Apple stores were ordered to shut down in China.
Of course, copying successful businesses isn’t only an issue in China.
The “look and feel” of a restaurant, retail store, or any other business is part of what’s called its “trade dress.”
“Trade dress” is a legal term that refers to the visual appearance of a store, a restaurant, a product, or product packaging. It is a form of intellectual property akin to trademarks. Like trademarks, trade dress can be registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
In the case of a restaurant, trade dress law could protect elements like:
- Décor and design
- Menus and other written materials
- Sounds and smells
One of the most famous restaurant-related trade dress cases in the US involved the Taco Cabana chain, which successfully sued a rival chain called Two Pesos. That case went all the way to the US Supreme Court.
It has been suggested that trade dress protection could even apply to signature restaurant dishes.
If you have questions about protecting your trademark or trade dress, or if a competitor is copying your trade dress, contact our office for a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys at (626) 796-4000.
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