Cantonese restaurant ‘The China Tang’ inside five-star The Dorchester hotel is in a trademark legal war with a Chinese takeaway that has the same name 300 miles away in Barrow-in-Furness.
China Tang inside the prestigious London hotel won its case against small businessman Hong Lu Gu, who runs his own China Tang in Cumbria.
Mr Gu now estimates he must cough up £1,000 to £2,000 to rebrand and fears the exclusive restaurant, in a hotel where penthouse suites are up to £10,000 per night, will come after him for their legal costs.
The father-of-two opened his family business under the name China Tang in 2009, four years after the Mayfair restaurant opened, because Tang was the surname of the man who taught him how to cook when he was younger.
China Tang’s lawyers argued that as restaurants – including its own China Tang – are offering takeaway during the pandemic this could lead people to confuse the businesses.
They also said that it provides ‘takeaway food’ to the customers of private jet companies.
Cantonese restaurant ‘The China Tang’ inside five-star The Dorchester hotel is in a trademark legal war with a Chinese takeaway that has the same name 300 miles away in Barrow-in-Furness
China Teng’s lawyers argued that as restaurants – including its own China Tang – are offering takeaway during the pandemic this could lead people to confuse the businesses
The prestigious London hotel’s restaurant won its case against small businessman Hong Lu Gu, who runs his own China Tang, pictured in Barrow-in-Furness and now must cough up an estimated £2,000 to rebrand
The menu for the China Tang at The Dorchester and the one in Barrow-in-Furness seem to have a big difference when it comes to price as well
The Dorchester’s estimated annual revenue is currently over £100 million per year and the restaurant is a firm favourite for celebrities like Boy George after it was set up by billionaire socialite Sir David Tang at the Mayfair hotel in 2005.
It charges £45 for a sharing portion of chicken noodles, compared to £6.30 charged by Mr Gu’s takeaway.
China Tang in Barrow-in-Furness is a family business that serves a loyal and local customer base.
Mr Gu has been battiling legal action from the China Tang restaurant for two years.
And at a hearing in December he was found liable for trademark infringement.
Mr Gu argues his takeaway delivers to people in a small catchment area nowhere near Mayfair.
He also claimed in court that there is a China Tang in Torquay, ‘Tang’ means China, its an adjective in relation to food, and Tang is a common Chinese name.
Judge Richard Hacon said: ‘I have no idea whether ‘Tang’ is the equivalent of Smith or Jones and cannot assume anything in that regard.
‘I think the submission that the average consumer would take ‘Tang’ to mean that the food is tangy has an air of desperation. I doubt that it would be so interpreted.’
Mr Hacon ruled a breach of the trademark after saying he had ‘sympathy’ for Mr Gu.
He also said the north west takeaway could not pass itself off as the fine-dining restaurant.
As a result, the Dorchester’s eatery could not claim any damages from Mr Gu but he fears they will seek for him to pay their legal costs.
He said: ‘It was a hard time.
‘I have to change the name, I have until March 16.
‘I just totally have the sense that I’m being bullied, you know?
‘I didn’t try to copy or get anything from their reputation.’
Mr Gu has opted to change his takeaway’s name to ‘China Town’ in hope it bears some resemblance to customers.
He added: ‘My customer circle has nothing to do with The Dorchester [restaurant, the China Tang’s] customers.
‘I’m surrounded by local customers.
‘I’m a Chinese takeaway – they are a high end restaurant.
‘I was fighting for China Tang because I don’t want my customers to get confused.
‘I worry that they won’t be able to find me online because most of my customers are older.
‘I have to pay to change my sign.
‘I don’t know how much but I think it’ll cost about £1,000 to £2,000.’
Inside the China Tang at the Dorchester in Mayfair, London
Mr Gu also said he had to close his business during the first lockdown in line with government guidance, which saw his books take a hit.
Now, he is waiting to hear next steps from his solicitor regarding a financial settlement from China Tang in Mayfair.
Mr Gu said: ‘The court sessions were in London and I had to take the earliest train from Lancaster at five o’clock in the morning to London.
‘Then I had to come back the same day because at night time I have to operate for my business.’
The direct train he took from Lancaster to London charges £105 for a return ticket.
A spokeswoman for the Dorchester said: ‘China Tang approached the Cumbrian takeaway with the same name last year to make them aware of the trade mark infringement.
‘China Tang wanted to reach an amicable settlement with the takeaway, and presented a proposal for the business to rebrand, which included a substantial financial contribution towards the re-branding costs.
‘This opportunity was subsequently declined by the business, hence the case ended up in court, which ruled in China Tang’s favour.’