Recently, there’s a big news about a Japanese company who stole a Singapore’s brand in Japan.
I didn’t know about The Tiramisu Hero until Dirty Shoes told me about it after the news came on TV. It turns out, because the brand is getting very popular, knowing that the brand wasn’t registered, this Japanese guy went ahead to register a company called Hero’s and also registered the trademark logo and had it approved. He then tried to force the original Tiramisu Hero to change it’s brand.
While watching a TV coverage, one host asked why the latter was allowed to register the trademark and logo even though another company started it years earlier. The expert on TV simply responded, “because patent people don’t know much about tiramisu.” Immediately, the host replied, “ダメでしょう！” which is exactly my thoughts.
How can you approve an application because you are not familiar with the industry? It is the patent office’s job to research and dig out such information to protect intellectual property. It’s like a doctor who operates on a man, eventually killing him and then say, “I don’t know much about the heart.” Ok, not a good analogy.
I recall an instance when I helped one company develop a solution on an e-commerce platform and later received emails and letters from another company who claim they patented the technology and want us to either stop using it or pay them a fee for it. I found that ridiculous because it wasn’t much of an invention. It was just making use of an API provided by the e-commerce platform to sell things in an unconventional method. On behalf of the company, I spoke with two patent experts and guess what? Neither of them understood what was going on even though they had the entire patent document downloaded from the patent office because neither of them are trained in IT. We had one meeting with each of them and then decided to not engage their service because they obviously do not know what they are looking at. I’m not sure if the person who approved the application understands what is being patented or not either.
Anyhow, since the revelation of this news, said company has been flamed online and they came out to apologize saying they will let the Singapore company use the logo. However, since the trademark logo still belongs to the company, it appears that the original Tiramisu Hero has to pay to use it. The Singapore duo has decided to rebrand their Japan product into Sir Antonio Hero and Tiramisu Star and announced it on their previous official website which has now been moved to The Tiramisu Star.
Now, this is not all there is to this company. The unethical company turns out to be gram, Inc., the famous fluffy pancake shop.
Or is it?
Turns out, rumour has it that they did the same to the original gram, a Japanese company from Osaka whose gram pancakes were getting very popular, but who also didn’t register their trademark. So this unethical Japanese guy, Takeda Takeshi, registered the company name and trademark logo and forced the original Osaka cafe to change their name. The Osaka cafe had no choice but to rebrand it to “bran cafe.” However, as their original name, gram, had grown so big, visitors continued to visit outlets opened by the despicable company without realizing it’s the unethical copy version. bran cafe eventually ceased operation and no longer exists now.
Apart from the above, Takeda has also shamefully patented other famous brand names such as Shiawase no Pancake, Tirapuri, and even Lawson’s Premium Roll Cake.
Granted, this guy may be in the wrong, but there is no way to completely eradicate unethical people and there’s just too many people to educate. How we can get to the root of the problem is to educate people at the trademark and patent office. If they had done up their research, things like that probably wouldn’t have happened.
Note: Lili brought to my attention that the term used should be “trademark” and not “patent.” For more details regarding this, please read her comment in the comment section below.
Update 4/26: Since this article is gaining a lot of attention now, I think it’s only fair that I write an update on the case. See here for the latest article.