Chubby Vs. Fat: The Pointless Noodle Trademark War

from the hungry-hungry-lawyers dept

Nothing breeds pettiness like trademark law. For some reason, the intellectual property law with perhaps the best intentions too often devolves into the most silly and unneeded exchanges over the similarities of common words and the desire to cease the shared use of common images. Case in point is the battle between Chubby Noodle and Fat Noodle, two San Francisco noodle places that are too busy sniping with each other to make the best use of their time doing, well, basically anything else with it.

Chubby Noodle has filed a trademark suit against Fat Noodle, the forthcoming Chinese restaurant from Saison’s Joshua Skenes and partner Adam Fleischman. Fat Noodle is expected to open in SoMa later this year, and is regarded as one of the city’s most anticipated 2015 openings. The popular Chubby Noodle, which currently has two locations (North Beach, est. 2011, and the Marina, est. 2014), is claiming that Fat Noodle’s chosen name is “confusingly similar” and will make customers believe that the two separate noodle-loving companies are related.

The suit also notes that both restaurants’ logos “incorporate a stylized bowl with noodles in the bowl,” among other complaints, like unfair competition and trafficking in a domain name confusingly similar to a trademark. The lawsuit even includes a memorable line: “The word FAT is a synonym of the word CHUBBY in Plaintiff’s mark. And the only additional word in both marks — NOODLE — is identical.”

If we’re really going to open the door to using trademark to block synonyms of “chubby”, how am I ever going to open up my restaurant: Boner Noodle? Joking aside, this is dumb. Like, really dumb. The two restaurants are no more confusingly similar than the myriad of other Asian noodle restaurants all over the place. Add to that the fact that Fat Noodle has come back and demonstrated that they had come up with the concept for their restaurant in 2008, trademarked the name in 2012, and failed to hear a word from Chubby Noodle’s lawyers for months, suggests the Fat Noodle lawyers might need to get their heads straight.

Even the images in question aren’t similar beyond the very basic concepts.


So we have two very different renderings of noodles inside a bowl. Other than those basics, basically everything is different. Add to it that the two names of the not-confusingly-similar companies are right there on display and I’m having trouble seeing why the lawyers are necessary here at all?

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Companies: chubby noodles, fat noodles

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Comments on “Chubby Vs. Fat: The Pointless Noodle Trademark War”

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32 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Considering the infinite variety of names (and logos) that they could have picked, why did they have to choose something so confusingly similar to an established business located close by?

They may have stayed within the boundaries of the law, but it still seems a blatant form of deceptive marketing, designed to trick the less-observant people who might confuse the two. It’s a good bet that this copycat restaurant, when built, will even look very similar to the original.

It’s a shame that this kind of thing is such a widespread practice. It’s not unlike all the sleazy ‘non-profit’ outfits with names deceptively similar to well-known charities, hoping people will donate money to them without noticing that they’re not who they appear to be.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Considering the infinite variety of names (and logos) that they could have picked, why did they have to choose something so confusingly similar to an established business located close by?”

I’d recommend getting your eyes tested if those logos are confusingly similar to you. Do you have a habit of wandering into any restaurant with a burger as a logo and whine that it’s not Burger King?

Vel the Enigmatic says:

Re: Re:

Except it’s not. Anyone with a basic amount of sense can see the difference between the two, and if you want to get really technical: fat is shorter than chubby by about 3 letters. Chubby’s has chopsticks in the logo, Fat does not.

The two words aren’t even homophones for that matter, making the whole thing about “less observant people” even more ridiculous and non-existent.

That’s like saying people would confuse the names of two different bait and tackle shops named “The Bait Hook” and “The Chum Hook.” Same number of letters, completely different words in the middle that basically mean the same thing but sound nothing alike.

Please pull your head out of the sand and take off your sunglasses so you can actually see the difference, not even the freaking bowls in logos look anything alike!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Homophone, no. Synonym, yes.”

…and? Does registering a trademark give you control over that’s word’s entire thesaurus entry now?

“the fact that both are black bowls full of noodles doesn’t strike you as at all similar?”

No more so than the fact that pizza places often use an Italian guy/pizza or burger places use burgers or steak places will have a bull or steak as part of their logo. Yet, thousands (perhaps millions) of variations on those themes exist all over the world, with nobody getting confused.

Are you honestly trying to say that merely illustrating the product they sell is now a problem, even though there’s nothing similar other than the product being illustrated? Because nothing else is similar – the aspect, the amount of noodles, the font, the letter casing, the presence of chopsticks, the presence of Chinese characters are all different.

You’d have to be blind to get these confused. Or, at least, paid to be so by a company trying to block a competitor to open based on weak assertions…

David says:

Re: Re:

It’s a good bet that this copycat restaurant, when built, will even look very similar to the original.

It will likely feature chairs and tables. And chopsticks.

And probably lots of kitschy Chinese-looking decorations, like dragons in green and gold.

Isn’t it eery how I can predict the looks of both restaurants I never have been in from across half the globe?

Perhaps I should register some trademarks.

Or perhaps I should try being something other than a blight on mankind.

Drawoc Suomynona (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Indeed, your comment is spot on, but you won’t get many positive responses here when you try to talk about basic trademark law concepts. One doesn’t really have to go far beyond the headline (or the byline) to know where this would go.

I mean, it really doesn’t matter that FAT and CHUBBY are synonyms, or that both logos are similarly shaped black bowls full of noodles, or that the new business is opening in close proximity to the first business, right? How could anyone possibly confuse the two?

I’d love to see a follow-up on this.

Anonymous Coward says:

This one is total bullshit.

For one, this has nothing to do with the English language and being fat like. Fat is a common Chinese name.

Chinese name of Chow Yun Fat is 周润发. His name is a typical and old-fashioned Chinese man’s name.

http://www.chinese-names.net/native/chow-yun-fat

On the design of the bowl, other than being in silhouette, so that both are black, the design of the bowl itself goes back at least 100s of years. It’s a classic noodle bowl, which can be found all over the place for anyone looking. Such as this example:

http://www.houzz.com/noodle-bowl

Neither of these have anything to do with trademark as they are classics in the Chinese culture.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Insert Noodling Pun Here

Add to that the fact that Fat Noodle has come back and demonstrated that they had come up with the concept for their restaurant in 2008, trademarked the name in 2012, and failed to hear a word from Chubby Noodle’s lawyers for months, suggests the Fat Noodle lawyers might need to get their heads straight.

Maybe that sentence has too many Noodles to be sure, but I think you meant to reference Chubby Noodle’s lawyers as needing a good head straightening.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Indeed. I thought you were all obviously talking about the stupid lawyers when you used the word noodles. I propose a solution for this lawsuit: change the words to more direct and descriptive terms. For example chubby noodles:

Plump and rounded (chubby) strip, ring, or tube of pasta or a similar dough, typically made with egg and usually eaten with a sauce or in a soup (noodle)

Awesome. My tongue twisted right after ’rounded’.

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