US food giant threatens British couple with legal action over market stall name

A US chain is forcing a couple to change the name of their market stall in Darlington because their branding is ‘too similar’.

Husband and wife Jonathan and Alicia Horsley sold Korean and Taiwanese meals from their home, in the village of Middleton St George, during the pandemic.

Their Pan-Asian food became so popular, the couple decided to take up a stall at Darlington Market and named it Bao Wow.

After just one day of trading, on April 28, they came home to a letter from Wow Bao – a chain based in Chicago with 500 restaurants in the US.

The letter said: ‘As a result [of the similarities], there will be a likelihood of confusion (which includes a likelihood of association) on the part of the public.

‘For example, there is a risk the public may believe that the Bao Wow goods/services come from our client or that Bao Wow is an economically linked undertaking to our client.’

Jonathan and Alicia insist their name is an innocent coincidence that they did not anticipate because they did their due diligence and checked they were not at risk of infringing on any UK-based companies.

Alicia said: ‘It is a pain. Our logos are completely different and I don’t think the two could possible be confused.’

The couple have struggled with a ‘big upheaval’ for some time now – as they moved to the UK just before coronavirus hit the country.

‘Of all the things that could have gone wrong, it’s kind of like the last straw that broke the camel’s back – it’s pretty demoralising,’ Alicia said.

Nevertheless, the couple cannot afford to fight the bigger company and are currently looking for a new name.

They have posted about their ordeal on social media, asking customers to help them with ideas.

Darlington Markets operator, Market Asset Management, said: ‘We hope the issue of the name can be resolved by the two companies amicably.

‘The fact that a large company based more than 3,800 miles away in Chicago has a small new business in Darlington on its radar is testament to the high quality and burgeoning reputation of the independent street food traders we have at Darlington Markets.

‘We think it’s great that Alicia and Jonathan are staying positive and are turning to the public to help suggest alternative names.

‘Their food has already proved to be a big hit with customers and will continue to be a welcome addition to our excellent food offering regardless of its eventual name.’ has contacted Wow Bao for comment.

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