Han's Cafe sues Japanese restaurant over name

Han's Cafe sues Japanese restaurant over name

Han's, the well-known local cafe chain, is trying to stop a Japanese restaurant from calling itself Han, saying it might confuse the public.

Han's Cafe, which has 21 outlets in Singapore selling Hainanese and Western food, has accused Gusttimo World, which owns Han, of infringing on its trademark.

It is seeking a court order to restrain Gusttimo World from using the name "Han" and its Internet domain name www.han.com.sg A three-day trial opened in the High Court yesterday.

Since opening its first outlet at The Arcade in 1980, Han's Cafe has expanded to a chain of eateries and bakeries.

Gusttimo World owns a group of food and beverage businesses including Korean restaurant Sarang at Science Hub, Italian restaurant Gusto at Ion Orchard, and Han at Odeon Towers.

Han, which opened in 2012, specialises in kushikatsu, or skewers of deep-fried food.

In its lawsuit, Han's, represented by Mr Mark Goh, contends that the use of the word "Han" is likely to confuse the public.

Han's Cafe has been in business for more than three decades and over time, people have associated the name "Han's" with its chain of eateries and bakeries, the plaintiff contends.

The plaintiff asserts that "Han's" has built up "goodwill" - or reputation - in the food and beverage industry. And when people see any eatery called Han, they will believe it is Han's.

But Gusttimo, represented by Mr Suresh Damodara, argues that its Han brand is dissimilar to the Han's trademark and the public is not likely to mix up the two.

The defendant also said it had several reasons for using "Han" in its brand. The word has long been associated with the family of its director and majority shareholder, Dr Lee Se Heon, who is originally from South Korea.

Dr Lee's late father started a glass production company called Hankuk Glass Industries, which eventually evolved into the HanGlas group and he decided to revive the "Han" name with the restaurant venture.

It contends that in Japanese, the Han character represents Osaka, which is where kushikatsu originates from. In the Korean language, the character represents the Korean people, which is appropriate as both shareholders are Korean.

Gusttimo contends that patrons of Han's are able to distinguish between the service provided by the cafe chain and its restaurant which serves old Osaka cuisine in a kaiseki - or traditional multi-course Japanese dinner - style.

The hearing continues.

selinal@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 9 in The Straits Times.

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