A Japanese restaurant operator yesterday claimed victory in a trademark lawsuit over the use of “Sanuki,” with the intellectual property court ruling that Namchow Chemical Industrial Co (南僑化工), a supplier of edible oils, detergents and frozen dough, did not hold exclusive rights over the brand name.
The response came after Namchow on Wednesday posted advertisements in major newspapers alleging that the verdict was unfair and that it was “politically motivated.”
The court ruling stated that Namchow did not have any claims over the trademark “Sanuki,” which refers to a region in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan, that produces flour ideal for making Japanese wheat-flour noodles known as udon.
“The ruling means that from now on, other operators can also use the trademark Sanuki when selling and marketing their food services to the public, as this is no longer a trademark belonging to Namchow,” said Chung Wen-yueh (鍾文岳), an attorney at Formosa Transnational (萬國法律事務所), which represents Kabashima Shoji, operator of the Dosan Kanroku restaurant chain.
Claiming Sanuki as an exclusive trademark would be like claiming to own the trademark “Hsinchu,” banning other sellers from using a name that refers to a city in Taiwan, Chung said.
The controversy arose in November 2007, when Namchow sent an official warning to Donsan Kanroku, claiming the restaurant chain had infringed on its trademark because it was promoting its own “Sanuki udon” to diners.
After receiving the warning, the Japanese restaurant filed a complaint with the Ministry of Economic Affair’s Intellectual Property Office in April 2008, demanding -annulment of the trademark.
The office ruled in favor of the restaurant in December last year, but Namchow filed an appeal with the ministry’s petitions and appeals committee.
After the committee maintained the verdict, Namchow brought the case to the intellectual property court, which said early this month that Namchow had no exclusive right to the Sanuki trademark.
Namchow fought back with newspaper advertisements on Wednesday, saying that the intellectual property office had granted it the trademark Sanuki 13 years ago and that since then the company had put a great deal of effort into bringing the brand to global markets.
It said the verdict would “destroy the brand value of the Sanuki trademark and dissuade consumers and companies from investing in the brand through legal channels.”
In addition to frozen udon noodles, Namchow produces ice cream, juice concentrate and cookies via its subsidiaries, and it markets the products of Nabisco, Kellogg’s and Haagen-Dazs in Taiwan.