Yes, you butter believe it, Little Chef, the former chain of roadside restaurants, has taken off its (oven) gloves in a trade mark battle in the culinary world.
The challenger: A charity recipe book. The outcome: Battered dreams.
Little Chef was once a big dill in the world of roadside cuisine with a chain of restaurants offering sustenance (and, for some more importantly, toilet facilities) for weary travellers for over 50 years. However, 2018 saw it close its restaurant doors in the UK for the final thyme.
Now while the physical presence of Little Chef may be gone, the name lives on…. as TV MasterChef quarterfinalist, Matei Baran, discovered at the end of last year.
Matei created a charity cook book inspired by his six-year-old son who was born with cystic fibrosis. The idea behind the book was to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and to encourage cooking with children. He originally titled the recipe book “Big Chef Little Chef”. However, less than a month before publication, things started to sour.
Matei received a letter from the owners of the “Little Chef” trade mark insisting that his use of the phrase was too similar to their mark, that it would dilute the Little Chef trade mark and confuse consumers. Matei was encouraged to change the name of his book so that it did not include the words “little chef”. Matei had hoped that he would be able to keep the name, as posters and other material had already been printed, but was willing to give up his trade mark application for “Big Chef Little Chef”. However, the letter confirmed that if he did not withdraw both his trade mark application and cease using the words “little chef”, he would face formal legal proceedings.
In light of this, and in order to proceed with the launch of his book, Matei decided to take the path of yeast resistance. He renamed the book “Big Chef Mini Chef”, which is due to be published on 26 January 2019.
Now while Matei managed to escape relatively unscathed (albeit slightly charred) from his brush with Little Chef, this is a useful reminder of how easy it is to infringe another’s trade mark, even if it is acci-lentil.
Although it may not always be feasible, it may be worth applying to register your chosen trade mark before using it. This is because trade mark applications are published in the trade mark journal for 2 months, enabling others to consider if the trade mark is confusingly similar and whether they want to oppose it. If there are no objections, the trade mark is registered and the owner has a right to prevent third parties from using that mark, or a similar mark, for the goods and services for which it is registered. If it IS opposed, then this reduces the risk of infringement and the costs of any legal proceedings later on.
Briffa are experts in all aspects of trade mark law and practice, including all contentious and non-contentious matters. If you would like some advice regarding your trade mark portfolio or dispute, or if you would just like to have a preliminary discussion about a trade mark issue, please do not hesitate to book a free consultation by contacting us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7288 6003.
Pasta La Vista, Baby.
Written by Charlotte Murphy, Trainee Solicitor