Fans of Panda Express in New Jersey may be interested to learn of a lawsuit filed by the Chinese takeout chain. Lawyers for the restaurant chain filed a civil suit against a Phoenix-based restaurant named Panda Libre. Panda Express alleged that Panda Libre infringed on its trademark name in the suit.
Panda Libre is a restaurant that offers Asian-Mexican fare. The name was chosen to represent both types of cuisine offered at the eatery. Panda Express says that it has owned the trademark for the word Panda since 2001 and that other restaurants that use the name in their title are guilty of trademark infringement. In the suit, Panda Express has asked for Panda Libre to change its name and destroy social media posts, signs and other materials with the name.
The lawsuit is one of many filed in recent years as legal professionals debate whether food trucks or restaurants can trademark names rooted in Asian American or Pacific Islander culture. Fast-casual restaurants and food trucks are emerging as leaders in the restaurant scene. Many of these restaurants offer fare based on a particular culture. Indian, Thai and poke are becoming increasingly popular and are causing many to question whether parts of culture may be considered intellectual property.
Businesses have the right to trademark their brand names, logos and slogans to prevent other businesses from profiting off of their intellectual property. When another business infringes on a trademark or copyright, it might be ordered to remove the item in question, change a name or pay licensing fees. In this case, Panda Express asserts that it owns the trademark for the word Panda. A trademark law lawyer may be able to prove that Panda Libre was using the word to attempt to profit off of Panda Express’ success. The restaurant might have to change its name and destroy any materials with the Panda Libre logo.