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  • Writer's pictureThe Gordian Team

The Trademark Registration that turned into a PR Nightmare

Nothing unites us Malaysian quite like food. Food, especially local food, is sacrosanct, and any perceived slights (e.g. when Singapore/Indonesia claims to have invented any of our beloved grub) will invariably be met with unabated fury!

While we've come to expect such sacrileges from our neighbours, we certainly didn't expect one of our own to stray so far from the generally accepted standards of food ethics.

A few months ago, local celebrity Neelofa's mum landed in hot soup when she attempted to register "Harimau Menangis" as a trademark. For the uninitiated, harimau menangis (or "suea rong hai" in Thai) is a well-known Northeastern Thai dish of rare beef brisket flavored with spices. Mayhem ensued when local netizens caught wind of the registration attempt. The resultant backlash eventually forced Neelofa's mum to withdraw the trademark application.

Outside of Malaysia, numerous attempts to register generic words/phrases as trademarks have also invited ridicules and even ire, e.g. Subway's failed attempts to trademark the word "footlong"; the former POTUS's attempt to trademark the phrase "you're fired"; and Ohio State University's attempt to trademark the word "THE"!

The lesson here? Trying to register a generic word or phrase as a trademark will usually make you look like a money grabbing troll and will most likely end up a PR Disaster!


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