A BROCKLEY restaurant is being forced to change its name by 'bullying' London chain Pho - which has trademarked a word describing Vietnamese street food.

The excellently-titled Mo Pho has been running in Coulgate Street for several years, selling a variety of Vietnamese fare including pho - a kind of noodle broth.

But the Pho chain in central London has ordered them to change their name, claiming the Brockley outlet is infringing their copyright.

In a statement, Mo Pho said: "We have been put on notice by Pho Holdings Ltd (Pho Cafe) that they have registered and trade marked the word 'pho', as they feel that the use of our name Mo Pho is confusingly similar to their trade mark, constituting an infringement and passing off.

"We feel this unfair as we ensured the look and feel of our brand was different to any established restaurants when designing our brand and logo. Our biggest surprise was that trademarking the word pho was possible, especially as it's our national dish which is used widely in our trade as a Vietnamese cafe/restaurant.

"As a small family business, taking on a successful chain such as Pho will be a big risk to us, therefore we opted to take down our signages until we are fully rebranded."

The announcement has led to an online backlash against the chain, with accusations of bullying on its Twitter account and Mo Pho's own Facebook page filling with messages of support from punters.

Tanya Perdikou wrote: "I have to say I think this is outrageous. It's like one fish and chip shop owning the word 'chips'. To make you spend money rebranding, it's basically corporate bullying."

Another, Hoa Ngo, said: "This is terrible news. How can pho be trademarked? I feel like a piece of my culinary heritage has been commoditised and stolen."

Listings on the Intellectual Property Office website show the word 'pho' was registered as a trademark in 2008.

'Protecting business'

Pho founders Stephen and Juliette Wall said in a statement: "We made the decision six years ago to trademark Pho, when Vietnamese food wasn’t as common on the high street and we only had one restaurant, to protect what we hoped would eventually become a successful restaurant business.

"The trademark we own simply means only we can operate a restaurant under the name Pho (in the UK) as our restaurant brand name, but of course the word can be used in many other different types of businesses, and in many other ways (descriptively, menus, etc.) 

"With plans to grow over the next few years, it’s important to us to maintain the trust of our customers, as well as to protect our name. While we regret that asking other restaurants to change their name is part of the process, we are not, and we would not, ask anyone to shut down, stop operating or change their menu.

"We’re following IP law to protect our brand, which means we have to ask all restaurants, large and small, to refrain from using the trademark Pho in their name. And with what we think is a fair amount of time to rename, we know the country’s independent Vietnamese restaurants will continue to do well and serve their local communities."