Vietnamese chain restaurant Pho has decided not to pursue copyright action against independent Lewisham restaurant Mo Pho, marking a backtrack from its previous "heavy-handed" position.
The smaller restaurant, Mo Pho, based in Lewisham, had stated on its Facebook that it found the earlier action "unfair" as it was unlikely to be confused with Pho, and had taken pains to ensure its branding looked sufficiently different to the larger brand.
However, it had reportedly been planning to comply with the request as it could not justify the "big risk" that fighting back would entail.
A social media backlash, particularly on Twitter, yesterday also accused the chain of "corporate bullying" and scorned the idea that the word "pho" - which describes a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup â' could itself be trademarked.
Pho had previously maintained that it was "following IP law to protect our brand, which means we have to ask all restaurants, large and small, to refrain from using the trademark Pho in their name", but has now retracted its statement, saying that "we recognise that it is unnecessary to pursue action against independent Vietnamese operators unless they are truly passing off as us".
It added: "We know that the legal advice we received to pursue IP law in such a way was far too heavy handed, and we've decided to ignore it, and we will not continue that course of action any further."
The decision to trademark the name "Pho" came six years ago after another London restaurant was found to operating under the same name, "almost putting [Pho] out of business", while the legal advice to follow IP law regarding the name (such as asking small operators like Mo Pho to change their names) had been adopted more recently after a large US chain restaurant also tried to enter the UK using a similar title.
While Pho had asked Mo Pho to change its branding and title (but had not objected to the use of the word "pho" descriptively, such as in menus) its new statement read: "We only want to improve and grow with our customer base. We spent the last eight years tirelessly promoting Vietnamese food, and that will not change. As such, we wish the UK's independent Vietnamese restaurants the best of luck."