When Gerald Veldman received a call from trademark lawyers Spoor & Fisher informing him that their client, Tiger Brands, had some concerns they’d like to discuss, he was uncomfortable but not unduly concerned.
That was until a legal letter arrived in his mailbox telling him that his use of the word “jungle” in the name of his small deli, Jungle Foodie in Cape Town’s Observatory, was in breach of one of the food giant's trademarks.
None of Veldman’s branding remotely resembled anything Tiger Brands does, least of all its powerful “Jungle Oats” brand.
All he did was use a word that appears on the cover of a famous Rudyard Kipling book. It's also in the name of a Port St John’s backpackers, a new-ish film starring Harry Potter (aka Daniel Radcliffe), and a favourite climbing frame of most five-year olds.
Its dictionary definition describes it as: ”an area of land overgrown by dense forest and tangled vegetation, typically in the tropics.” It’s also used by Cape Union Mart in some of its K-Way outdoor gear.
The giant food company has also written to Harbour House Group in Cape Town, which owns the popular beer and pizza joint Tiger's Milk, and asked them for clarity on what they plan to do with the word “Tiger's”.
The difference between Harbour House Group and Gerald Veldman is that the former has the backing of substantial private equity funds and can choose, if it wants to, to defend its patch.
Veldman took legal advice and rather than pick a fight with a R52 billion business, decided on a name change.
Turns out his new name is far better: Fork and Fresh. (Read it fast, and think bilingual, it works better that way.)
Tiger Brands admits a letter was sent, but describes it as a letter of invitation to have a conversation with the giant as to whether or not the naming of Veldman’s restaurant conflicted at all with the food manufacturer, which claims to hold some 7,000 trademarks across the world.
It claims to have trademarked “Jungle” and was looking to ensure none of its customers would confuse their deli experience with that of one of the strongest brands in the Tiger stable.
Rather than start the process with a civil conversation, which Tiger Brands head of corporate affairs Mary Jane Morifi conceded on The Money Show would have been more constructive, they sent in the big guns to scare the living daylights out of a guy who after a corporate career of 20 years, took the plunge and started his own thing 18 months ago.
Whether he registered that Tiger Brands was open to a conversation is unclear. He saw a big brand lawyer's logo and potentially tens of thousands in legal fees - and decided instead simply to change his restaurant name.
Frankly Veldman is better off name-wise than before, although he will have to shoulder the cost of the changes himself. Tiger Brands surely could in the spirit of goodwill fund those changes, considering it’s admitted to being over the top in its original communication.
As an aside, it perhaps hardly surprising Tiger Woods has not been keen to compete in South Africa.
Who’d want to watch Eldrick Tont Woods play golf anyway?
Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award-winning financial journalist and broadcaster.
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