US chain Wow Bao threatens family-owned UK bao stall Bao Wow with legal action over name

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  • Bao Wow, a pan-Asian food stall in the U.K., is rebranding after the U.S. chain Wow Bao threatened the owners with legal action.
  • Jonathan and Alicia Horsley, the owners of the Bao Wow stall at Darlington Market, were told to repurpose all their branding and social media by 4 p.m. on Friday.
  • Wow Bao, which supplies 500 restaurants across the U.S., said: “The use of Bao Wow in this way will infringe the WOW BAO Trade Marks under section 10(2) of the Trade Marks Act.”
  • Without resources to fight the case, the couple from Middleton St. George now seeks the public's help with finding a new name.

A couple is seeking the public’s help to rebrand their recently launched street food business in the U.K. after receiving threats of legal action over its name.

Husband and wife Jonathan and Alicia Horsley, owners of the pan-Asian food stall Bao Wow at Darlington Market, received a legal letter from U.S. supplier Wow Bao demanding that they change their stall’s name. 

Wow Bao, which supplies 500 restaurants across the U.S., found the stall’s name too similar to its own and argued that it could cause confusion among customers.

“The use of Bao Wow in this way will infringe the WOW BAO Trade Marks under section 10(2) of the Trade Marks Act,” read the demand letter penned by law firm Eclipse Partners LLC. “There will be a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public. For example, there is a risk the public may believe that the Bao Wow goods/services come from our client or that Bao Wow is an economically linked undertaking to our client.”

In addition to the name change, the letter demands that the couple repurpose all their branding and social media by 4 p.m. on Friday.

“In return, our client will not claim any damages or costs against you,” the letter concludes.

Attributing the similarity of the business names to coincidence, the couple from Middleton St. George now seeks the public’s help with developing a new name, as they don’t have the resources to fight their case. 

“It is a pain. Our logos are completely different and I don’t think the two could possible [sic] be confused,” Alicia, 43, told TeessideLive. “We started on April 28. We came back after our first day trading to find this letter. Of all the things that could have gone wrong, it’s kind of like the last straw that broke the camel’s back – it’s pretty demoralising [sic].”

The independent business serves a number of healthy dishes, including their specialty meat-stuffed Taiwanese bun, or bao. Since asking social media users for name suggestions, they have received several promising responses, ranging from Baobaocha, Bao Bait and Bao Meow, which retains the logo’s cat theme.

“We’ve had a great response from customers so far,” Alicia said. “We had a few teething problems when we first started but customers were really understanding.”

According to Alicia, the business started selling Korean and Taiwanese meals they prepared at home during the pandemic and transitioned to opening up a stall when Darlington Markets opened. 

Market Asset Management, a spokesperson for Darlington Markets operator, said in a statement: “We hope the issue of the name can be resolved by the two companies amicably.”

“The fact that a large company based more than 3,800 miles away in Chicago has a small new business in Darlington on its radar is testament to the high quality and burgeoning reputation of the independent street food traders we have at Darlington Markets.”

“We think it’s great that Alicia and Jonathan are staying positive and are turning to the public to help suggest alternative names. Their food has already proved to be a big hit with customers and will continue to be a welcome addition to our excellent food offering regardless of its eventual name.”

 

Feature Image via Bao Wow (left, right)

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