The MD of fine dining Indian Restaurant Itihaas in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter has warned independent restaurants to be vigilant against rivals trying to leverage their brand name.
Raj Rana instructed lawyers to take two organisations to task in Cumbria and Cambridge who opened restaurants under the Itihaas name.
After learning that they were unlawfully using the Itihaas name, trademark attorneys stepped in, threatening legal action if they didn’t change the branding.
Expressing his dismay, Managing Director Mr Rana discussed how unjust it was, that there are people out there apparently seeking to piggyback off Itihaas’ hard work, for their own gain. “We have worked hard over the last 15 years to build a very valuable brand and it’s shocking how people come along and try to rip us off and jump on to the band wagon of our awards and success”.
Food and hospitality businesses often have more problematic trademark issues than other types of businesses due to their territorial nature. While consumer goods and many other businesses immediately function nationally, many restaurants and hotels start out doing business in one geographic location.
Hospitality PR Expert Anita Champaneri from Delicious PR said, “Twenty years ago you could always find a Taj Mahal or Taste Of India on your suburban High Street but in the past 10 years entrepreneurs have really worked hard to make their restaurants individual and have strived to grow their distinctive brands. So it’s very annoying that there are sometimes third parties out there who will try and take a short cut to success rather than create something unique.”
Matt Shaw, a partner at Forresters, who dealt with the infringements on behalf of Itihaas and Mr Rana, said “If you are hoping to grow your business and ring-fence your brand, restaurants should always take steps to register their name (and logo, if there is one) as a trade mark. This provides strong, nationwide protection and makes it much easier to deal with any unauthorised use of something similar.
Mr Shaw’s Top 5 Tips to protect against ‘copycats’ are :
- Seek professional advice and register your important brand names as trade marks
- Make sure that you also protect any important logos
- Make sure that you protect the marks in the right categories
- Be vigilant (especially on social media) for any infringements; and
- If you discover a problem, take immediate advice, because delays can cause problems.