Facebook has threatened to sue a Ho Chi Minh City restaurant for using its name.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan, owner of Nang Ganh (Lady with Shoulder Pole) Restaurant on Tran Quoc Thao Street in District 3, said her Vietnamese slogan (roughly: “The first restaurant built on Facebook”) doesn't imply that the social media company was directly involved in its founding or operations.
“I called for others to invest in the restaurant on Facebook. I chose that slogan to pay tribute to those Facebook users,” she said.
Nhan recently received a letter dated August 13, 2014 from the BMVN law firm – Facebook’s legal representative in Vietnam – accusing her of misusing its client's intellectual property.
BMVN said Nang Ganh's promotional materials risk confusing consumers into believing that Facebook Inc. has offered it some sort of sponsorship or recognition.
An ad on Nang Ganh Restaurant's website that says "The first restaurant built on Facebook."
“Your use of the Facebook trademark may constitute a violation of intellectual property rights and competition as defined by Vietnamese intellectual property laws,” Facebook’s representative said.
BMVN asked Nang Ganh to withdraw its application to register the restaurant’s slogan as it contains the word “Facebook."
It also asked the restaurant to come up with another slogan.
The law firm gave the restaurant until September 15, 2014 to reply or face legal proceedings.
Success via Facebook
Nhan said she was "very surprised and embarrassed" by the letter because she had no intention of violating the social network’s intellectual property rights.
In 2011, Nhan began selling food online and quickly turned a profit, prompting her to expand her business by opening a restaurant.
During her career in marketing, Nhan became well-versed with the social network’s impact and decided to post her business plan on Facebook to solicit investment.
“My proposal got 100 responses overnight. Some agreed to invest US$100, others $500 or $1,000. They even offered to transfer the money immediately,” she said.
Finally, she managed to raise $30,000 from 160 people. Together with the money she'd saved running her online business and taking out loans, she opened Nang Ganh restaurant in HCMC late last year.
“Though we have not been open for long, the business has been going smoothly. I've managed to pay back over 80 percent of my investors,” she said.
Nhan said she printed her controversial slogan on signboards, bags, menus, name cards, leaflets and other promotional materials. To change it now would involve a loss of more than VND200 million ($9,400), she said.
She said many people have proposed she change "Facebook" to “social network."
“But I still want to use this slogan because it reflects the true story of how the restaurant got started,” she said.
Nhan said she plans to contact Facebook to express her desire.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Dieu Cam, CEO of T&A Ogilvy – Facebook’s media representative in Vietnam – said this represents Facebook's first such dispute in Vietnam.
“Facebook is very supportive of local businesses who succeed using Facebook. However, Nang Ganh restaurant has combined its trademark with the Facebook name which could easily cause misunderstandings,” she said.
“If anything happens to the restaurant, Facebook will be affected.”
Cam said she would contact Facebook Inc. to seek an official statement on the case.