A British man and woman say they were told to change the name of their food stall on the market after being threatened by legal action from US food giant Wow Bao.
Jonathan and Alicia Horsley opened their stall, Bao Wow, at Darlington Indoor Market last month after months of preparation.
But on their first day serving customers, they received a letter from lawyers for the US food chain Wow Bao, threatening “potential legal action” over the name of their booth.
It called for the independent pan-Asian food stall’s name to be changed because there is a ‘risk of confusion’ between the two brands.
Jonathan and Alicia Horsley, pictured, were shocked to receive a letter telling them to change the name of their market stall to Bao Wow
Wow Bao is located 3200 miles away in Chicago in the United States, and although it has 500 outlets in North America, it has none on this side of the Atlantic.
Mr and Mrs Horsley, who are from Middleton St. George, near Darlington, say the name is a… innocent coincidence and they had checked before opening that it would not infringe on UK based companies.
Since they’ve only been open for a matter of weeks, the couple don’t want or have the resources to legally challenge their case – and are now looking for a new name.
It comes as another Darlington company, House of Zana, is gearing up to do battle with fashion retailer ZARA over a trademark dispute.
Lawyers for US chain Wow Bao say the name of the Darlington couple’s stall could cause ‘confusion’
Alicia, 43, told TeessideLive: ‘It hurts. Our logos are completely different and I don’t think the two can be confused.
‘We started on April 28. We came back after our first day of trading to find this letter.
“At that time we were in the phase of getting a board, so luckily we didn’t spend a lot of money on physical boards.
“Since we moved to the UK in 2019, we have had a major upheaval with covid.
“Of all the things that could have gone wrong, it’s the last straw that broke the camel’s back — it’s pretty demoralizing.”
In a letter to the couple, seen by TeessideLiveWow Bao representatives said: ‘As a result of this’ [of the similarities]there is a risk of confusion among the public (including a risk of association).
“For example, there is a risk that the public may believe that Bao Wow’s goods/services come from our customer or that Bao Wow is an economically related enterprise to our customer.”
The pair has now taken to social media to ask customers for suggestions on how to rename their brand.
One of their most popular dishes is the Bao Buns – a dish that has become extremely popular in restaurants across the country.
The independent company has received a great initial response from customers and serves “exciting, different and healthy dishes,” including delicious bao specialties – a steamed Taiwanese bun filled with a choice of braised pork belly, Korean fried chicken or smoked tofu.
Customers can also eat a Rendang, a Malaysian and Indonesian specialty with melting beef cooked for a minimum of 12 hours and served with steamed jasmine rice and a variety of vegetables and pickles.
Mr and Mrs Horsley opened their Pan-Asian food stall at the Darlington Indoor Market last month, pictured
The couple have held various jobs – Jonathan’s previous roles have included international sales and Alicia is a former teacher who once ran her own pet store.
“We’ve had great customer response so far,” Alicia said.
“We had some teething problems when we started, but the customers were very understanding.
“We made Korean and Taiwanese meals at home for people to buy during the pandemic, which turned out to be very popular, so when we saw the stall open in the market, we thought we’d let it go. Jonathan likes marketing and food trends and said the Bao Buns would become popular and so far it has been.”
A spokesperson for Darlington Markets operator, Market Asset Management, said: “We hope the name issue can be resolved amicably by the two companies.
“The fact that a large company located more than 5,800 miles away in Chicago has a small new business in Darlington on the radar is a testament to the high quality and growing reputation of the independent street food merchants we have at Darlington Markets.
“We are thrilled that Alicia and Jonathan are staying positive and turning to the public to suggest alternative names.
“Their food is already a big hit with customers and will continue to be a welcome addition to our excellent food offering, whatever the eventual name.”
Wow Bao has been approached for comment.
Source: New feed