Sibling rivalry a trademark of enterprises in Taiwan

Sibling rivalry a trademark of enterprises in Taiwan

EAT Seven Bowls is suing Eat Seven Bowls, but it's all in the family.

The founder of a popular maker of savoury glutinous rice and other traditional Chinese dishes is taking the almost identically named business of his younger brother to court, four years after they went their separate ways.

Mr Lee Tung-yuan of Taipei-based Eat Seven Bowls, a trademark he registered in 1986, wants the eatery run by his brother and sister-in-law in Taichung to use its own Eat Seven Bowls trademark and stop using his.

As it is, the two trademarks are easily confused. That of the older Mr Lee is rendered in the Minnan dialect, Chia Qiih Warh , while his brother's uses Mandarin, Chi Qi Wan - with only the character for "eat" rendered differently.

Mr Lee filed an injunction with the intellectual property court last month. He told the China Times newspaper he wished only to protect the reputation of his business, which is much more successful than his brother's.

The Lee brothers, who worked side by side in the early days of the business, are not alone in their fallout: It is not uncommon to find two or more versions of a family-owned eatery in Taiwan, the result of disagreements or power struggles among siblings or uncles and nephews after the family patriarch dies.

The same goes for big family-owned business empires.

The most infamous case in recent years has been the tussle among the nine children by two wives of petrochemical tycoon Wang Yung-ching, founder of Formosa Plastics, who died in 2008 at age 91 without a will.

His oldest son, Winston, has filed multiple lawsuits in the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Bermuda against some of his half-siblings over control of Mr Wang's estimated US$18 billion (S$23 billion) personal fortune.

Such feuds may be more common in Taiwan simply because family-run businesses account for more than 90 per cent of private enterprise on the island and 70 per cent of listed companies, more than those in Hong Kong, mainland China or Singapore, according to the Institute of Directors and Sociologists.

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