U.S. ‘Ocean Basket’ in the soup over stolen identity row

2015-03-11 00:00

CAPE TOWN — South African seafood restaurant group Ocean Basket has just discovered that a U.S. company is using its name, logo and even menu, Fin24’s sister publication Netwerk24 reported yesterday.

This discovery comes as Ocean Basket prepares to mark its 20-year anniversary later this month.

In an interview with Fin24, CEO Grace Harding said she remains obsessed with capturing the company’s unique brand as it continues to expand.

Ocean Basket currently operates 189 restaurants, 166 of which are in South Africa. It currently has no branches in the United States.

The others are in Zambia (2), Namibia (2), Swaziland (2), Botswana (1), Zimbabwe (1), Kenya (1), Nigeria (1) and Lesotho (1). There are also branches in Mauritius (2), Greece (1), Cyprus (7) and Dubai (2).

Ocean Basket’s legal team is investigating a case of “stolen identity”, and Ocean Basket is planning to issue a statement in the U.S. to expose the restaurant in California as an illegal entity and imitator.

Harding said yesterday the restaurant had committed plagiarism by using Ocean Basket’s globally registered trademark. She said the U.S. restaurant is riding on the back of Ocean Basket’s global success. “Our marketing team are planning to first alienate the restaurant from its market support and if we are pushed to take the matter further, we will take legal action in a U.S. court.”

The restaurant in Visalia, California, is however not receiving many flattering comments from clients, according to restaurant reviews on the website www.yelp.com.

According to an April 2014 report in local newspaper Visalia Times-Delta, the new restaurant was founded by MG Food Services, led by Gadija Ghaniem and her husband Maurice, who moved from Johannesburg to California in 2013.

According to the report, they also opened Jay’s Flame Grilled Peri Peri Chicken (whose emblem originally closely resembled Nando’s rooster) and a coffee shop called Mugs & Beans.

According to MG Food Services’ website, the couple no longer use the name Mugs & Beans for their coffee shop. It was changed to The Coffee Lounge, but the initials “M and B” are still part of the logo. Furthermore, they changed the logo of Jay’s Flame Grilled Peri Peri Chicken so that it no longer resembles that of Nando’s.

According to Harding, this is not the first time a restaurant group has stolen Ocean Basket’s trade mark. “We have in the past exposed restaurants in Thailand, Cyprus, Greece and Australia which traded under the Ocean Basket name.

“Ocean Basket’s existing trade mark has been registered in some of areas and it was easier to protect our rights there.”

Ocean Basket is meanwhile planning to open 11 more restaurants outside SA this year, including in Egypt (2), Saudi Arabia (1) and Malta (1), with more opening in Greece (1), Cyprus (1), Mauritius (1), Nigeria (1) and Dubai (1).

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