In its online edition of 12 March 2021, the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reports on a name dispute in the gastronomy sector and headlines: US giant takes action against Zurich Güggeli («Güggeli» = Swiss for Chicken) restaurant. Because Ahmed Saeed from Zurich uses the abbreviation ZFC for his Zurich Fried Chicken restaurants, he now has problems with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
Saeed opened his first chicken take-away called «Zurich Fried Chicken», or «ZFC» for short, in June 2020. He used the lockdown (Covid-19) in spring to remodel the restaurant, where he had previously run a take-away restaurant called «Spice Village» with Indian specialities. «It has always been a dream of mine to offer a restaurant with halal chicken dishes,» the 53-year-old Swiss, who left his native Pakistan when he was 20, tells the Tages-Anzeiger. «All over the world there are dozens, even hundreds of such restaurants that also use the name Fried Chicken – in Pakistan, in London, in Dubai. They are called HFC, ZFC and so on. Have all these restaurants also received a letter from lawyers?»
A Swiss law firm representing Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has written to Saeed demanding that he change the names of his chicken takeaways. The lawyers are giving the entrepreneur just two weeks to give in and agree to a cease-and-desist letter. If Saeed does not do so, the lawyers threaten him with legal action on behalf of the US giant. He would have to expect costs and compensation, but also criminal consequences because he deliberately disregarded trademark and competition law.
The lettering in the KFC and ZFC logos looks very similar – black capital letters written in italics. The Zurich logo, however, shows a chicken with its thumb up, while the American company shows the likeness of its founder. KFC is now demanding that Saeed stops using the abbreviation ZFC. Saeed told the Tages-Anzeiger: «I make fried chicken, and I make it in Zurich – surely it can’t be forbidden for me to put that together into a name and use the abbreviation for it?» In addition, the American chicken fryer wants Saeed to stop using the name Szinger for a burger, as he himself has a burger on offer with the very similar name Zinger.
The US company confirmed to the Tages-Anzeiger that it was aware of Zürich Fried Chicken. They understand the similar name as a compliment, but they do not allow competitors to copy their chicken specialities. Saeed replies that he only uses fresh ingredients for his products. The halal chicken comes from Holland and is not frozen, while the marinades are made by the staff in the two restaurants every day.
Analyse the case based on the Swiss Fair trade law. Trademark protection does not play a role in this case study. Answer the following questions in particular.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is one of the largest international restaurant chains, with over 20’000 locations worldwide. For Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Ahmed Saeed is an extremely small fish. Why is Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) taking legal action against Ahmed Saeed’s «Zurich Fried Chicken ZFC» at all?
- How do you judge the competition between the names «Kentucky Fried Chicken», or «KFC» for short, and «Zurich Fried Chicken», or «ZFC» for short?
- How do you judge the competition between the logos of «Kentucky Fried Chicken», «KFC»” for short, and «Zürich Fried Chicken», «ZFC» for short?
- How do you assess the level of awareness of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in Switzerland, and what relevance does this have in terms of fair trade law?
- Ahmed Saeed tells the Tages-Anzeiger: «I make fried chicken, and I do it in Zurich – surely it can’t be illegal for me to put that together into a name and use the abbreviation for it?». How should this assertion be judged under the law of fair trade law?
- Ahmed Saeed tells the Tages-Anzeiger: «All over the world there are dozens, even hundreds of such restaurants that also use the name Fried Chicken – in Pakistan, in London, in Dubai. They are called HFC, ZFC and so on». Is this allegation relevant to the assessment of the present case in Zurich? Explain briefly.
- How do you judge Ahmed Saeed’s legal chances and risks in the present case?
- What proposals could Ahmed Saeed make to Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to settle the matter amicably?
In the meantime, Zurich Fried Chicken has reached an agreement with Kentucky Fried Chicken KFC. The name «Zurich Fried Chicken» and the abbreviation «ZFC» remain, but the letters are now more sweeping and written in lower case (LZ Online 08.10.2021).