One of the most popular food trends to hit Manila this year is that donut-croissant love child, appropriately named, the Cronut™. Since Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in New York introduced this confectionery hybrid to the world, different versions of the fried pastry have been recreated all over the globe, from London all the way to the Philippines.
In our country alone, there are at least twelve copycat versions, all of which have evaded serious copyright infringement cases by the simple expedient of calling their version a different name. It’s amazing to see the crimes against grammar and proper spelling that resulted from people bending over backwards to come up with something that sounds like, but not quite, the name Cronut.
Though there haven’t been any high-profile cases filed over the Cronut here in the Philippines (yet), legal disputes over other food-issues have definitely occurred in the past. Here are some infringement cases which serve as irrefutable proof that while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it can also get you sued for millions.
5. Big Mak vs. McDonald’s Big Mac
Big Mak Burger Inc. is a Philippine owned corporation that sells, well, burgers. McDonald’s (we’re all familiar with the giant multi-national right?), as expected, didn’t take too kindly to another company cribing their flagship’s name while selling similar products. The beloved but sometimes creepy, big footed clown sued Big Mak for unfair competition because of the use of “Big Mak” as its trade name. The Philippine Supreme Court ultimately ruled that there was no infringement because the name Big Mak was derived from both the first names of the mother and father of defendant Francis Dy, named Maxima and Kimsoy.
4. Jollibee Food Chain vs. Jollibee Footwear
How weird (or cool?) would it be if you could go to Jollibee to order your usual Aloha or Champ burger and buy shoes at the same time? Okay, that doesn’t sound too hygenic. Our local courts seemed to agree with the wisdom of keeping feet separate from food when it imprisoned Richard Chua for infringement due to the use of a similar logo in addition to copying the name of everyone’s favorite fast food joint. Chua argued that despite the identical names and comparable logos, his footwear could not be mistaken as a product of the ubiquitous fast food chain. While he has a point, I also know that the last time I was in Jollibee, they were selling a twelve-inch dancing doll of an insect with a chef’s hat.
3. KFC vs. Hitler Fried Chicken
Hitler was no match for Colonel Sanders when the, rather unfortunately named, Hitler Fried Chicken company was made to change its logo. The fried chicken and kebab joint’s logo bears an unmistakable resemblance to that of KFC. KFC sought legal action against Hitler Fried Chicken to which the latter conceded. The Hitler restaurant in Thailand has since changed its name to H-ler to avoid Nazi associations.
2. Del Monte vs. Sunshine Sauce
Sunshine Sauce Manufacturing is a local corporation engaged in the sale and distribution of Sunshine Fruit Catsup . Del Monte is a US-owned corporation engaged in the sale and distribution of the Del Monte Ketchup (among many other things). Sunshine Sauce was found guilty of infringement when it was proven that they used recycled Del Monte bottles to package their own products. Sunshine Manufacturing was enjoined from using Del Monte bottles as containers and was ordered by the court to pay a hefty sum as damages.
1. Starbucks vs. Shanda Interactive
Starbucks sued the a Chinese gaming giant in Beijing courts for using the coffee shop’s Chinese name in its online game, Legend of Mir. Starbucks is known locally as XingBaKe while the video game is dubbed as ShaBaKe. Apparently, it not only sounds close, but also uses two out of three identical Chinese characters. Starbucks lost the suit because the Chinese term ShaBaKe can actually be traced to its usage long ago as a transliteration of Shabak, which refers to a minority ethnoreligious group that lives in northern Iraq. The lawyer who dug that obscure reference up to win the case against Starbucks deserves a free latte for being a such a superb researcher.
Know any more food-related lawsuits? Let us know in the comments section below!
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