A UK food company accuses a Vietnamese restaurant of infringing on it trademark “Pho”

The common and descriptive name ‘Pho’, for the national soup of Vietnam is a registered trademark in the UK. The UK food company, which registered the term is now trying to enforce the trademark against an independent Vietnamese restaurant named ‘Mo Pho’.

‘Pho Holdings Limited’, an UK-based food company filed an application to trademark the term ‘Pho’ and received it more than 6 years ago. Though the company reasons that they only trademarked the word ‘Pho’, the actual application on file shows that the trademark covers includes meat, fish, poultry game, and rice and noodle products; and these are exactly the ingredients used to make ‘pho’ as per an online dictionary.

Though Pho Holdings is debating that they trademarked the name years ago when Vietnamese food was not as common as it is today in the UK; this argument doesn’t work as the term ‘Pho’ is simply described as a soup dish and is therefore descriptive. In addition to this, Pho Holdings also held a logo with the trademark to make it more identifiable, and the Vietnamese restaurant was using the name “Mo Pho” and it is unclear if the logo seemed similar to ‘Pho Holdings’. Pho Holdings would also have to prove that consumers would likely be confused by Mo Pho’s restaurant and that such confusion would harm the brand of Pho Holding.

Although ‘Pho’ was not popular in the UK when it was trademarked, its current popularity makes it a weak and generic word, which is unlikely to be enforced. Considering the above situation and finding better legal advice, Pho Holdings later has decided not to enforce their trademark against independent restaurants.

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