We've had dust-ups in the restaurant industry over trademarks before. Whether it was Psy vs. Gangnam Style Restaurant, which turned out to be a nothing, Nutella vs. restaurants promoting their products, or Waffle House vs. rap music, the conflict is there, but I feel like it lacks a certain gravitas. A little of what the French call je ne sais quoi. The closest we've come to anything satisfying was IHOP vs. God, but I'm going to disqualify that one for being outside the mortal coil (side note: Heavenly Coil would be a great name for a punk band or strip club). Fortunately, we've finally got a trademark dispute with some real personalities. Two titans on the world stage that the cameras can do close-ups on as they battle this out.
I'm of course talking about the potential for a legal battle between Colonel Sanders and Adolf Hitler. Some brief background is probably in order. See, apparently there's something of a trend in Thailand for taking well-known cultural icons and changing their images just enough to represent history's most dasterdly megalomaniac. As a result, you'll get teletubbies with Hitler's face on them, or a cute little panda with a toothbrush mustache and a glare that says, "Those bamboo stalks better not be Jewish." And the latest victim of this Hitler-ization is of the KFC spokesman.
Kentucky Fried Chicken told The Huffington Post Friday it may take "legal action" against a fried chicken shop named Hitler that sports a storefront emblem very similar to KFC's, only with Adolf Hitler's head replacing Colonel Sanders.
"We find it extremely distasteful and are considering legal action since it is an infringement of our brand trademark and has nothing to do with us," a spokesman for KFC parent Yum! told The Huffington Post in an email.
Look, I can't blame KFC for being upset that their beloved Colonel Sanders was morphed into Hitler. Adolf Hitler murdered roughly 11 or 12 million people in one of the world's greatest travesties. The Colonel only kills chickens, people. Delicious, succulent, chickens. So if KFC wants to go the trans-oceanic trademark route, it may be hard to blame them, but how much of an effect would it actually have?
As it turns out, a mild-flavored recipe effect at best. In order to avoid criticism of the same kind a couple of years back, the restaurant changed its facade, name, and shop images a bit. Now, instead of being called Hitler's Chicken, the name has reportedly been changed to H-ler, because that's apparently better. Also, it looks as though the Hitler image has been removed. Not that this is erasing anyone's memory, of course. People pass that shop every day and know it was Hitler's Chicken. Nobody ever confused Hitler with Colonel Sanders and nobody ever actually thought less of KFC or their trademark because of the stunt.
You can understand why KFC was upset, but it's hard not to see the futulity in all this. KFC may not have realized at first that the images of a Hitler Colonel were a year or so old, but this can serve as a lesson in how the market and society will usually do all the legal work for you if you give them enough time and spotlights.