No Mo' Mo Pho

Coulgate Street Vietnamese café Mo Pho has fallen phoul of Big Pho. The Pho café chain seems to think they own the word Pho and have served Mo Pho notice that they think they are infringing their trademark. The Mo Pho team write:

It is with sadness that we would like to inform our customers that we will be reluctantly taking down our shop sign this week and trading as "mopho" instead of mo pho until we have establish a new name for ourselves. 

Please note, WE WILL BE OPEN for business as usual and welcome your continued support!!

Some background on our decision... we have been put on notice by Pho Holdings Ltd (Pho cafe) that they have registered and trade marked the word PHO, as they feel that the use of our name Mo Pho is confusingly similar to their trade mark, constituting an infringement and passing off. 

We feel this unfair as we ensured the look and feel of our brand was different to any established restaurants when designing our brand and logo. Our biggest surprise was that trademarking the word PHO was possible especially as it's our national dish which is used widely in our trade as a Vietnamese cafe/restaurant. 

As a small family business, taking on a successful chain such as Pho will be a big risk to us, therefore we opted to take down our signages until we are fully rebranded.

If you have any suggestions for our new name, please let us know!! You could see your name in lights and a free meal on us! 

It’s a little incongruous for a cutesy, Innocentesque brand like Pho to act so aggressively and a little odd that they think their customers might confuse them with a café whose title is a play on “motherfucker”. It’s not who they are underneath, but what they do that defines them.

28 comments:

Tim said...

Maybe it's a little OTT by the big chain, but I think in life you have to pick your battles. Mo Pho (or whatever it's called) should move on, continue to make great food and (hopefully) prosper. Meanwhile, if I ever come across Big Pho, I'll be sure not to eat there.

Crofty said...

Wonder how on earth they were allowed to trademark "pho"? It's like trademarking the word soup or bread. Mo Pho should tip off the newsdesk at the Evening Standard, it's a great story - papers love this sort of thing - and would make Pho Holdings look like the twerps that they are.

Tim said...

I'm going to write Pho Cafe right now, and tell them of my dissatisfaction, and tell them I'll be encouraging my friends never to go there. Is this the one Nick? http://www.phocafe.co.uk/

Boycott said...

Won't be eating at Pho again, not that I would anyway because their food is very sub-par. No idea why anyone would eat at the east london branch with kingsland road and mare street restaurants so nearby.

Tim said...

I see Pho Cafe have a Facebook page and Twitter account. They shall also be the target of my ire (once Nick has confirmed I have the right target).

Katy said...

Oh, that's ridiculous! It's like telling a sandwich shop they can't use the word 'sandwich' in their name. Good luck, Mo Pho, in your new guise - and shame on you, Pho Cafe (@phorestaurant, if you fancy tweeting them...)

Tim Arnold said...

I have to say I feel the same about The Restaurant Formerly Known As Mo Pho. The noodle soup is okay - good, even - but everything else they serve is a bit 'meh'. They need a schooling from some of the Kingsland Road shops.

legaleagle said...

I am a lawyer and have to say that on first look Pho Cafe have very spurious legal grounds to claim a trademark infringement and/or passing off. I would say that they are trying to bully you. I'll get in touch privately and see if we can put together a response - it is at least worth a try before you incur the expense of re-branding etc.

Chris Wheal said...

Of course Pho can be trade marked. The names Smith (WH), McDonald and Spencer (Marks &) are much more common in the UK yet all are trade marks of high street shops.

By way explanation, I have trademarks in various categories, including such mundane words as "zebra". It means other people can trade using the word zebra in a whole load of different lines of business - many have trademarks of their own containing the word "zebra" - but it does mean only I can trade in my sector using the word. Once you have a trade mark you have to protect it all the time.

Try this for an experiment, publish the word jacuzzi when talking generically about a whirlpool bath. You will get a lawyer's letter telling you that Jacuzzi is a trade mark and must have an unppercase J and must only be used when referring to whirlpool baths made and supplied by Jacuzzi.

Another company trademarked the word Pho for Vietnamese food. If there had been lots of shops selling Vietnamese food using that word the trademark application would not have been allowed.

Tim said...

While I'm not expert, your argument is not wholly convincing. 60 seconds of googling found 3 shops as well as Pho Cafe and Mo Pho that have "Pho" in the title.

http://food.list.co.uk/place/29199-pho-vietnam-house/

http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/52/1701095/restaurant/Hackney/Hanoi-Pho-Restaurant-London

http://www.toptable.co.uk/pho-great-titchfield-street

"Zebra" is not a generic description of a product unless you are selling zebras or zebra meat, which I doubt.
"Jacuzzi" is named after the brothers who invented a water pumping device and, again, wasn't a generic term for anything until pumped water baths started to catch on.

Mark said...

The thing is, 'Smith' doesn't mean 'stationery', 'McDonald' doesn't mean 'burgers' and 'Spencer' doesn't mean 'clothes and groceries'. And I'm guessing your business isn't a zebra retail outlet. 'Pho' is a simple description of the product the restaurant sells.

The IPO says that marks which 'describe your goods or services or any characteristics of them' or which 'have become customary in your line of trade' are not distinctive. I'm no lawyer, but that would seem to apply in this case. Perhaps Pho's trademark covers the word in conjunction with its logo, or in the specific lettering they use, or something like that?

Rolf said...

Agreed. Tried it twice and the last time the chicken tasted not so fresh. Shame because it looks like a cool place.

I like Pho said...

Just a quick search on Google brings back a lot of restaurants with the name 'Pho' in them. Does this mean that Big Pho are going to go after all of them as well? What is so special about Mo Pho, why them and not all the others?

Chris Wheal said...

I'm not saying the Brockley cafe was "passing off". I am saying that it is reasonable to expect that sort of letter. I've been in publishing 25 years and I've never had anything go beyond the initial threatening letter. They just monitor the use of the word and send a standard response.

Chris Wheal said...

The application process involves the IPO office looking for others using the word or logo. If there are only a few they may proceed with the application but will write to those firms telling them someone is trying trade mark that word and giving them the chance to object.

Food fan said...

Well Pho sound like arseholes, I won't be eating there.

WEASEL HUNTER said...

I believe Wheal is trademarked too by Weasel Ltd. Sorry Chris you'll have to change your name

Chris Wheal said...

If only. A domain squatter bought wheal.co.uk off a guy with my name who retired from his carpentry business in Cornwall (where the name comes from) and then tried to sell it to me for £7,000. Chancer.

Monkeyboy said...

@PhoRestaurant tweets...

"After much deliberation 2day we've decided to go against the legal advice we received which followed an attack by a US chain on our company"

Thanks, sensible decision.

Crofty said...

VICTORY!!!! By the sounds of it, according to Pho Cafe's Facebook page - two minutes ago they announced they are NOT pursuing the alleged "case" against Mo Pho! Power to Brockley!!!

Crofty said...

By the way, if anyone coming home tonight goes past Mo Pho it'd be lovely to pop in and make sure they've seen the good news - they were getting ready to take down the sign this week and it'd be terrible if they went ahead with it now. I'm at work til midnight so can't have the pleasure myself...!

nburdy said...

Yip - seems it didnt take long. win. https://twitter.com/PhoRestaurant/status/382568806003900416

Wilkes said...

UPDATE: I was in communication with Pho about this issue yesterday.this was their response

"PhoRestaurant confirms other restaurants MUST CEASE using 'Pho' in their name" http://wp.me/p2kSNM-5Tk

However they appear to have made a u-turn late last night

A Magnus said...

What the pho...well there's another eatery on my black list

Nick Harman said...

I knew the couple who started Pho when they had the one cafe. They seemed nice and down to earth and it's a shame they seem to have become corporate horrors and, the quality of what they do has gone down.

Nick Harman said...

I tweeted my displeasure and got this reply

@foodepedia we're no longer pursuing legal action.

Karl Chu said...

please re-name and call it: Mo Pho - I am happy to contribute and fund your legal expenses to fight this case. Don't give up. Best Karl!

roysavage said...

just call it Pho-mo

Brockley Central Label Cloud