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Panda and poke: Restaurant trademarks can stir legal fights

Posted at 11:55 AM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 14:55:30-04

GILBERT, Ariz. (AP) — Trademarking the names of restaurants peddling Asian or Asian “inspired” foods can lead to clashes over ownership and cultural appropriation.

A recent lawsuit against an Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant shows the struggle between protecting a brand and picking a name that instantly invokes a culture.

Panda Libre in suburban Phoenix faces a court challenge from the chain Panda Express, which has owned the trademark for “Panda” for Chinese food services since 2001.

Other efforts have faced fierce online backlash. In 2018, Chicago-based Aloha Poke Co. sent cease-and-desist letters to poke restaurants with “aloha” or “aloha poke” in their names. That includes places selling the raw fish dish in its birthplace of Hawaii.