You may think trademark infringement cases only involve big companies. But we present to you a case that involves a small business that infringed on a famous company’s trademark.
What is Trademark Theft? How Can It Be Prevented?
This is a funny yet true story involving a small fried chicken company and a major luxury brand. In 2017, a South Korean court ordered the fried chicken retailer to pay over US$12,000 in fines for infringing upon the brand’s logo. Look at the picture below, we think you can recognize the brand…?
As per the usual steps for any trademark infringement case, Louis Vuitton’s counsel first issued a cease-and-desist letter. The chicken retailer then tried to rename itself restaurant but it wasn’t enough. The new name they chose wasn’t all that different from the first.
Original name: LOUISVUI TON DAK
New name: chaLOUISVUI TONDAK
Louis Vuitton was not amused and neither was the court. They ordered in favor of LV a second time and forced the chicken guy to change the name AND pay a big fine.
Could the restaurant have prevented paying such a hefty fine?
No one can avoid seeing that in this case these LV-similar names and designs were picked for a reason. They wanted to ride coat tails on one of the most recognized brands in the world that since 1854 has stood for luxury and quality that many people go gaga for.
The restaurant could have avoided such a sticky situation first by not being stupid. They SHOULD have consulted a trademark agent and a branding expert beforehand to find a name that could sell chicken without pissing anyone off.
How to prevent being sued for trademark theft:
- Think of a unique name – avoid generic or descriptive terms, such as “happy, delicious meal”, as these are very common and can be easily challenged. You should look at some examples of suggestive trademarks because they are easily defended.
- Register your brand name – applying for and registering a trademark is like marking your territory. Get help from a trademark agent to help you in the process.
- Use it or lose! – you need to make your trademark known to the world. In case somebody claims that you are stealing their trademark, you should be able to present evidence of your usage.
- Be alert – this involves keeping track of social media, search engines, or any channels that could put your name in jeopardy. One simple trick is to set up a Google Alert for your trademark.
- Get help from experts – a trademark agent’s job is not finished just because your trademark is registered. A trusty trademark agent can help you follow up on any potential infringements and monitor anything that might cause harm to your trademarked brand.
What if somebody stole your trademark:
Being in business is a battle, and you must be ready for any potential infringements. You need to do the following before taking any legal actions:
- Carefully evaluate the impact – step back and think about the gravity of the impact. If, for example, the part that has been copied is not central to your business, perhaps you should ignore it? It might not be worth worrying about? Consult your trademark agent to help you weigh your options.
- If you decide to go for a legal battle, you must consult your trademark agent.
- Peaceful settlement – some trademark thefts are unintentional; some might be the result of lack of research. Because taking a legal action can consume a considerable amount of your time and money, it might be best to initiate a dialogue to the other party to claim your trademark name.
Not every dispute needs a court battle; this should be your last option.
Trademark theft is a serious matter and can harm your brand. If you are in need of trademark lawyer, please contact us!