Chubby Noodle and Fat Noodle Logos

Is Fat the Same as Chubby?

We have discussed the importance of human factors in trademark disputes a few times here on EID. But this one is so good I couldn’t resist bringing it up.

Noodles Raw Catering, the parent company of two Chubby Noodle restaurants in the city, is accusing Saison Group LLC of engaging in trademark infringement by picking the name Fat Noodle for its forthcoming Chinese eatery, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The proposed logo for the new restaurant, which shows a stylized bowl of noodles, is also too similar to the Chubby Noodle logo, the lawsuit alleges.

Remember that the main objective of trademark protection is to prevent consumers from confusing one organization or brand with another. In one example, SKY and Skype were considered confusable because they are in similar industries and have similar names. On the other hand, Delta airlines and Delta faucets are not confusable because reasonably attentive consumers would not think that an airline also makes plumbing fixtures (or vice versa).

My Take

There are a lot of gray areas. Taylor Swift’s “Party like its 1989” versus Prince’s “Party like its 1999” made it through. Apple Computer and Apple Music got into trouble when iTunes and iPods came out.

The case that I bring up today brings in another dimension. Usually, the court focuses on the generic “reasonably attentive consumer” threshold. In this case, they focus on people in San Francisco. Are they a specific and significantly different user group?

There are two restaurants. The original is Chubby Noodle. Its logo is a bowl of fat noodles. Then a new restaurant opened called Fat Noodle. They created a very similar logo. If you see Fat Noodle, would you think it was the same ownership as Chubby Noodle? If you think carefully, perhaps not. But as we know, most of the time we don’t think carefully. In real life conditions could we make that mistake? Using System 1 thinking?

The court decided that San Francisco restaurant goers are pretty savvy folks. So while many of us might make this mistake, they won’t. After all, there are a dozen different Ray’s Pizza restaurants in New York. Not only are these owned by different people, there is some serious antipathy among them. And yet the court allows Ray’s, Famous Ray’s, Ray’s Famous, Original Famous Ray’s, Famous Original Ray’s – very confusable variations.

Your Turn

I have a few questions for you today:

  • Are we better off using the precautionary principle; erring on the side of preventing confusion just in case?
  • Or does this overprotection lead to dumb users because they never have to think too deeply?
  • Should the government prefer a light touch for philosophic (small “l” libertarian) reasons?
  • Or take a more paternalistic approach for philosophic (small “l” liberal) reasons?’

    Image Credit: Chubby Noodle & Fat Noodle Logos

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