24 Sep

Will I get sued if I put ‘pho’ in this title?

My local Vietnamese resaurant has a brilliant name. It’s called Mo Pho. I’m not that into Vietnamese food, and while I’ve enjoyed every meal I’ve had there, I think their brilliant name has brought me more pleasure than their food.

But it might not have that name for much longer, because piddling behemoth Pho thinks the world is too stupid to tell the difference between this little café and their Leeds-bound empire.

I’m annoyed by this, but I can’t help but find it all quite funny, too. Pho’s real problem seems to be that, instead of thinking of a distinctive name, they have just named themselves after what they sell. They’re a pho shop, so they called themselves ‘Pho’, and now they’re upset that other people who sell pho have the nerve to put the word ‘pho’ in their names. Imagine a world where KFC had left ‘Kentucky’ out of their name and sent threatening letters to every fried chicken shop in your town.

Of course, everyone knows that keeping a trademark alive means defending it against every tiny infringement. That’s the defence Pho have been using to justify their bullying. They don’t want their inaction to allow ‘pho’ to become a generic term. Presumably they’re working on a time machine to make this possible.

Still, they have every right to make sure we don’t confuse the Vietnamese dish pho with the restaurant chain Pho. And I’m grateful: I wouldn’t want to boycott a whole cuisine just because of my newfound dislike of Pho With A Capital P. But it would be nice if they kept the pretence up all the time, instead of putting this on their website:

‘Pho is so gratifying it is hard to believe it’s legal’ – Miami New Times

That isn’t a quotation about their restaurants. It’s a quotation about pho that they can to pass off as being about their restaurants because they have given their restaurants such a generic name. They want to have their pho and eat it. And they can, because they own ‘pho’. Apparently.


Update: As I was writing this, Pho called off their nonsense, which means we can now all enjoy their ridiculousness free from worry about how it affects small businesses.

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