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.

Trade Dress

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
  • Signage
  • Logos
  • Menus and other written materials
  • Artwork
  • 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.

Leech Tishman’s Intellectual Property attorneys are dedicated to the protection and monetization of your ideas and innovations. Many of our registered patent attorneys have advanced degrees enabling them to truly understand the complex technical details of your idea. Several bring engineering expertise, others molecular biology, manufacturing and business acumen to your trademark, copyright, patent prosecution and litigation and trade secret issues, both domestic and international. Our clients range from individual inventors, authors and owners of creative works to entrepreneurial enterprises, government entities, mid-sized corporations and Global 500 companies with operations throughout North and Central America, Europe, South Asia, the Far East and Australia. We have serviced a vast array of industries including automotive, cosmetics, e-commerce, electronics, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, furniture, internet, manufacturing, networks, optics, publishing, software, technology, toys, and wireless. We are committed to providing you with strategic counseling and personal attention throughout the entire life cycle of your project. We are proud of our longstanding relationships with local innovation communities and enjoy working with entrepreneurs and businesses who wish to protect their ideas and good names.

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Photo attribution: Jericl cat. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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