Yenn Wong, owner of the Chachawan Isaan Thai and Bar, woke up this morning to find his business has been copied, almost stone by stone, a few hundred miles north in Shanghai. Mr. Wong is really troubled by the new counterfeit restaurant and how it was ruining his brand image. Many customers have asked his company on Facebook if he opened a new place.
While it is unfortunate that his place was copied and chances are he can do nothing about it since he did not register a trademark in China, he can look forward to the sign that his brand is counterfeited. By being copied, it means his restaurant was a good place. So good that someone copied it. They did not copy the menu and the idea, but the exact place and name.
Hong Kong restaurateur Yenn Wong got quite a surprise one morning earlier this month.
The co-founder of popular Hong Kong restaurant Chachawan Isaan Thai and Bar, Wong woke up and logged onto her computer to find a friend had forwarded her multiple images of a second Chachawan restaurant in Shanghai.In addition, Chachawan’s Facebook page was filled with enthusiastic inquiries asking if the shop had opened a new branch in Shanghai.
Wong looked closely at the pictures online. The Shanghai Chachawan bore the hallmarks of her successful Hong Kong eatery. It had the same exterior look and feel as the Hong Kong shop.
Even the menu, focusing on northeastern Thai — or Isaan — cuisine, looked the same. Opened earlier this month, the Shanghai restaurant had already earned scores of 5/5 stars from six of its eight reviewers on Dianping, China’s crowd-sourced food forum.
Given that she had no plans to expand her operations to Shanghai, the copycat Chachawan stunned Wong.
After all these online reports appeared online about the restaurant, the fake company changed its name to ‘StreeTHAi’.
If it did not, the question is could Mr. Wong do anything about it? While we have already mentioned that China only respects trademarks that are registered in their own country(even HK does not count), many other reasons would stop the company from protecting it’s trademark. In China, to shut down a factory/store/seller that sells counterfeit products, you have to prove to the courts they are making profit. Does not matter if they produce 10,000 pairs of shoes a week, you have to prove they made money on that, which is near impossible unless you have bank access.
Even if you succeed in all that and remove the fake company, they will just reopen down the street. Then you will have to restart the whole process again. Nike experienced this heavily, and as a result moved most of its factories to Vietnam and Indonesia. Nowadays they just have labor disputes.