World renowned sea food restaurant “Ministry of Crab” filed action against a restaurant opened under the name “Black Crab” in the Commercial High Court of the Western Province, over infringement of its trademark and unfair competition. The “Ministry of Crab” which was established by celebrated chef and restaurateur Darshan Munidasa, partnering with Sri Lankan cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardane and Kumar Sangakkara, found its well-known crab logo being copied by another restaurant known as the “Black Crab”.
From the time of its inception “Ministry of Crab” has traded under its distinctive orange crab logo against a black background which is seen to be hung prominently all over its restaurant. The concept behind the logo was created as Dharshan Munidasa felt that it was important to showcase the shape of the fish or crustacean being served as anatomically correct.
The Defendants were two individuals who had opened a restaurant under the name “Black Crab” using an identical logo with the similar colour scheme, of the Plaintiff’s, “Ministry of Crab”. It used this logo on its Facebook page as well as at the entrance and inside its restaurant.
The logo was so similar that it was thought by the public, that the Defendants’ company was in some way affiliated to the Plaintiff’s. “Ministry of Crab” tried resolving the matter amicably by sending a cease and desist letter to the Defendants bringing to their attention the similarity of the two logos and urged them to remove the logo from their business. Despite this the Defendants continued to trade under the same logo.
The Counsel of the Plaintiff, Manoj Bandara with Hasitha Gamage and Shanika Gunawardena who were instructed by Sudath Perera Associates, stated that the Defendants were using the goodwill associated with the Plaintiff’s logo to their advantage, and that their actions were clear and calculated with the intention of misleading the public and passing off their food items under a logo which is known to be the Plaintiffs.
It was further noted that the “Black Crab” could not have been ignorant of “Ministry of Crab’s” famous logo given the fact that the trademark is so well known, and was highly unlikely that it was mere coincidence due to the same colour and identical manner of the depiction of the crab.
This being a clear-cut infringement on Ministry of Crab’s logo, the High Court enjoined a ruling in favour of the Plaintiff which was extended to the 22nd of November 2017.
From the public’s point of view the familiar crab against the black background is a reminder of the unique and fine quality of seafood and service offered by Ministry of Crab. Thereby, trademarks that inspire such brand recognition and loyalty are coveted by many. Hence preventing small scale infringements from taking place is necessary to ensure that reputed logos such as Ministry of Crab’s does not lose its significance and transform into a generic logo over time.