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?

Filed Under: noodles, trademark
Companies: chubby noodles, fat noodles


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 9:22pm

    In other news, FAT NOODLE sues NTFS NOODLE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 9:46pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 11:46pm

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Vel the Enigmatic, 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:27am

      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!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Drawoc Suomynona (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:01am

        Re: Re:

        Homophone, no. Synonym, yes.

        "not even the freaking bowls in logos look anything alike!" - but the fact that both are black bowls full of noodles doesn't strike you as at all similar?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:08am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Neither the names nor the logos are anything close to confusingly similar.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 30 Jan 2015 @ 1:01am

          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...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 29 Jan 2015 @ 1:12am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Drawoc Suomynona (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 8:29am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 9:15am

        Re: Re:

        Well, if they were next door to one another, then one might decide to choose the left one, or the right one, in which case there would only be one RIGHT choice, leaving the other LEFT out.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Vidiot (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 12:24pm

        Re: Re:

        "Common law service mark", according to the complaint... meaning Mr. Chubby himself didn't think it was unique enough to register, at least until recently.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 10:19pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kal Zekdor (profile), 28 Jan 2015 @ 10:43pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jan 2015 @ 11:00pm

    one other thing they could sue over

    they're both black&white

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 2:04am

    Obligatory Phat Phuc noodle bar reference... :D

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 29 Jan 2015 @ 3:02am

    Clearly they are using a synonym specifically to get around trademark law and based on the Aero ruling, since they are acting like trademark violators, they should be considered trademark violators.

    If it looks like a fat duck, it is a fat duck - or at least an orange flavored duck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 3:17am

    If you listen carefully, that sound you hear in the distance is Noodles & Co gearing up to take on the winner.

    The word "noodle" confuses us all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 29 Jan 2015 @ 3:21am

      Re:

      How about we combine this with "pasta" then and create the "Chinese Poodle Restaurant"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 5:49am

      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'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 6:06am

    Makes me want a chili burger

    I think I'll go to Tom's. Or Tomy's. Or Tommy's. Or Tommie's. Yes, all those places exist in LA, and they all serve chili burgers.

    (and if you've never been there, picture the Cheeburger skit from SNL, only with "chiliburger, chip")

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:22am

    Coming soon!

    Coming soon near you, a new Obese Noodle Factory store!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 7:45am

    Surrounded by noodle places

    I am surrounded by dozens of noodle places like these. Do you know what 75% of them have in common? They are named "something Noodle" and have a logo that consists of some form of a bowl of noodles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2015 @ 2:45pm

    Similarity? Confusion? Immaterial. The name of this game is put the competition out of business---SOONEST. The downside is that FN is looking stupid enough that people may decide their food is possibly dangerous or poorly made and stop buying it. Besides, "Chubby" sounds so much nicer than "Fat".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 29 Jan 2015 @ 5:07pm

    What about other Chinese restaurants?

    Does this mean that the China King and Toyko King restaurants near me aren't related?! But they both have "King" in the name. That sounds like product confusion to me!
    And as I look closer, they both serve sweet and sour chicken, General Tso's chicken, and egg drop soup. They must be the same restaurant!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2015 @ 6:34pm

    Sofa King Wok

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.