Norton Rose Fulbright's Brand Protection Blog

When a small restaurant called Mo Pho received a letter from the owners of Pho Cafe (Pho Holdings Limited) claiming infringement of their word mark Pho, it cleverly decided to publicize the unfair nature of the dispute on Twitter. See The Guardian. For those not in the know, Pho is a popular noodle soup dish of Vietnam. Mo Pho, being a Vietnamese restaurant, thought it not right to be restrained from using this generic term. The public sided heavily with Mo Pho, expressing their disbelief that trade mark law could enable such a claim. As one Twitter follower remarked, it was akin to protecting “soup” as a trade mark. The apologetic trade mark owners promptly withdrew the claim, explaining that they did not intend to own the term “Pho”. If so, it is difficult to understand what they were trying to achieve by registering the Pho mark in respect to among other things, products made wholly or principally of a number of ingredients (including noodle soups) and the “packaging of food and catering services.” See UK trade mark UK00002398772:

It seems that the trade mark application passed through the TM registry net before the Vietnamese food fad hit the UK.

This case serves as a good reminder for all to carefully consider how their actions (be it enforcing their rights or applying for a trade mark,) could be portrayed in the social media space, which is now deeply woven into our everyday lives.

This article was prepared by Seiko Hidaka ( / +44 20 7444 2432).