Apparently iPho by Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant located in St. Paul, Minnesota, is quite good.

The logo design is eye-popping, and dare I say clever, but does it cross one of the many legal intellectual property lines?

We can all agree as to the source of the “inspiration” for this visual identity, right? Our little friend located in Cupertino, California:

But, can we agree on whether this use constitutes infringement or dilution?

Marketing types, would you be proud of creating the visual identity for iPho?

Following up from yesterday, is this a job for LogoThief?

Trademark types, what is the strongest objection to be made here, and which side would you rather be on, assuming you could be fully paid for your efforts? I know, I know, a highly unrealistic hypothetical, unless of course, insurance coverage might level the playing field.

The iPho name, if shown differently, could be used without raising any eyebrows, no doubt.

Whether or not you’re a fan of pho, who says phooey when confronted with this visual identity?

  • Michael Gury

    What a delicious can of noodles has been served up here!  On the legal side of this, I don’t know how you can avoid the fact that it is plagerism, it is confusing (is Apple involved in this noodle thing?  A new retail strategy devised by Angela Ahrendts? A brand extension maybe? A code name for a new operating system in beta at an otherwise non-descript noodle joint in America’s heartland?), and likely not copyright-able on its own merits, whatever they are.  It is apparent that this outfit has deliberately used Apple’s nomenclature system and trade dress for its own commercial purposes; we assume without Apple’s written consent, and that those trade dress elements are fully detailed and documented in Apple’s trademark registration. It is a safe bet that this registration includes most of the world, including Viet Nam.  Of course, in French Colonial Vietnam Nam it would have to be Faux, not Pho.

    The nomenclature system nick is, I would guess, subject to a bit of gray, but I am quite confident that Apple has created a line over which you cannot step in naming something iBanana, or whatever.  See also Toys R Us for that banana peel.  

    For Apple, I don’t know that the brand dilution factor is as great as upholding the principle of intellectual property law — the basis for wrastlin’ counterfeits and legal protection for a not insubstantial component of Apple’s value. 

    This is a credibility issue for Apple.  Looking the other way on even on this little one sets a bad precedent.  What is diluted here is Apple’s credibility on the legal principle of copyright.

    So it’s “Sorry Miss Saigon, we hate to do this to your noodle enterprise, but no slack honey, it’s the law.”

    Copyright infringement, whether Johnnie Cochran or Ramsey Clark are defending the rights of the little guy, and especially since this does not look like much of an accident, is pretty much what it is no matter who commits it or who argues on behalf of the alleged perp(s).  Claiming category differentiation?  Nope.  “Oops!”?  Uh uh.  And the “Gee, we thought Apple would get a kick out of it” ploy wouldn’t garner much sympathy either.

    Now — as a career branding, naming, design, advertising, and all-weather logo judge and jury — aside from the adolescent thrill of annoying the gorilla, I cannot fathom why anyone would think that this idea would do anything but distract from, or do justice to, the product itself.  Using little sterile icons, one of which looks like a slab of soggy white bread, another like a vanilla milkshake, isn’t exactly telegraphing the tempting quality of these exotic delicacies.  To add to the waywardness of this stellar design, the symbol of a bowl of noodles in place of an “o” suggests Phu not Pho.  I’ll set aside my comments about the noodle-headed frat boys who served up this bit of creative pillage to Madam Nhu.

    A simple cease and desist is called for here, with the robust hint that should this come to a third-party judgement that iPho has infringed Apple’s copyright/trademark rights and thoroughly confused their consumers (as in, “I thought I ordered an iPhone 5 and all I got was a lousy bowl of noodles!”), then damages (most certain) will consist, in lieu of a trainload of nickels (as was Samsung’s fate), of 1000 bowls of hot Pho delivered daily from Minneapolis to Apple’s corporate commissary in Cupertino for a period of one year.  With chopsticks.

    Better a Pho ball than a Sue ball.


    Michael Gury
    Yet Another Branding Know-It-All