Panda and poke: Restaurant trademarks can stir legal fights

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NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 13: A view of Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke prepared by Chef Germán Caceres of Green Fig at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of New York Trade Tasting presented by Beverage Media Group, during the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by Coca-Cola at Pier 94 on October 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

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.

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