Oodles of noodles

By Brand Heeler

Another day, another takeaway-related trade mark spat

San Francisco is home to a small (two outlet) chain of noodle restaurants called Chubby Noodle. They seem to have been just as imaginative with their logo, which features a bowl, some noodles and a pair of chopsticks.

The one fly in Chubby Noodle’s otherwise perfect ramen would appear to be the unwelcome presence of an even smaller rival (just the one outlet!) – Fat Noodle.

Chubby has reportedly accused Fat of infringing its trade mark, citing similarities between the logos and pointing out that since FAT is a synonym for CHUBBY it’s therefore bound to lead to confusion.

We’ll leave you to play ‘spot the difference’ with the logos, but we’re not wholly impressed with Chubby’s argument. Admittedly, it’ll be a question of Californian law but, from our vantage point, we can’t quite see the issue. CHUBBY and FAT may mean similar things, but they look different, sound different and there are definite differences of nuance.

Although meaning is undoubtedly a factor in assessing trade marks, just because you’ve got rights in one word doesn’t mean you’ve got rights in all possible alternatives. Otherwise, CHUBBY would also be able to monopolise: FAT, CHUNKY, FLABBY, PLUMP, PORTLY, STOUT, AMPLE, BEARISH, BIG, BUXOM, FLESHY, FULL-FIGURED, HEFTY, PODGY, ROLY-POLY, ROTUND, TUBBY, ZAFTIG etc etc.

In the UK, Australia, the EU etc the correct test would ask whether there is a likelihood of confusion, taking into account the trade marks’ respective visual, phonetic and semantic similarities and differences. Our hunch is that the differences outweigh the similarities in this case and that the bulk of this case is just Chubby throwing its weight around.

This article contains our thoughts and opinions on an issue of general interest and is written from the perspective of Australian and/or English law. It is not legal advice and is not provided in the context of a solicitor-client relationship. It may not even be relevant to your jurisdiction. No duty of care is assumed or accepted. Please carry out appropriate research and consult with a suitably qualified legal expert before taking any action or making any decisions.