March 17, 2020

Panda Express files trademark infringement lawsuit over Panda Libre over the use of the word “Panda”

[ by Legal Era News Network ]


An Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant in suburban Phoenix (Arizona, USA), named “Panda Libre” was dragged to a Federal Court in the United States by Chinese takeout chain Panda Express alleging trademark infringement.

The lawsuit showcases how trademark law can collide with an evolving dining landscape, where restaurateurs peddling Asian or Asian “inspired” foods often pick a name that instantly invokes a connection to that culture.

According to Panda Express’ parent company – Panda Restaurant Group based out of Rosemead, California, it has owned the trademark for “Panda” for Chinese food services since 2001. The chain wants a court injunction and seeks that Panda Libre destroys signs, social media posts and other materials with the name.

Panda Express which was launched in 1983 by Andrew and Peggy Cherng as an offshoot of their Panda Inn restaurants, has more than 1,900 locations nationwide. The company says it has a “legal obligation to consistently protect them” and is hopeful of a resolution.

According to Panda Libre founder Nicole Fan, “It would be like starting a new company. That alone there is hundreds of thousands of dollars in this restaurant.” She further stated that going through the lawsuit ordeal will bankrupt her.

On top of punitive damages and legal fees, Panda Express, which generated $2 billion in sales last year, is asking for all of Panda Libre’s profits since it opened last year in Gilbert, near Phoenix.

According to experts, Panda Express is within its right to trademark “Panda” for restaurant and food products.

Panda Restaurant Group said it takes legal action on a “case-by-case basis.” It also said that it has settled several trademark infringement issues without litigation last year.

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