Chicken Licken claims that the name of a vegan restaurant in Durban North, Oh my Soul Café, and its use of the word ‘licken’ in its menu are confusing to customers, and so it is taking the restaurant to court over alleged trademark infringements. Chicken Licken says it needs urgent adjudication, and the dispute is due to be aired before KZN High Court (Durban) Judge Dhaya Pillay this week.

A Sunday Times report notes that from two chicken outlets started by the late George Sombonos in 1982, the popular franchise now has 240 outlets around SA. It has registered 40 trademarks over almost every combination of the word ‘soul’ and ‘licken’ imaginable.

In court papers, Chicken Licken MD Chantal Sombonos-Van Tonder, who took over the company from her father, accuses Oh My Soul’s owner, Richard Duffin, of using ‘confusingly similar’ variations of the trademarks including Soul, Rock my Soul, Catch my Soul, Bless my Soul, Feed your Soul, Soul Food, Soulful and Licken.

These, she says, appear on the cafe’s Facebook posts, coffee cups, serviettes and menus.

It also offers a ‘grilled licken breast’.

‘Soul’, says Sombonos-Van Tonder, is central to her brand’s identity.

Sombonos-Van Tonder says her company has spent hundreds of millions of rands on advertising over the past 15 years and was suffering unquantifiable damages because of the theft of its property and goodwill.

Duffin, in his affidavit, says his branding was not visually, phonetically or conceptually similar to Chicken Licken’s.

There is no argument that our mark does contain the word soul – in a descriptive sense – but that’s where the similarity ends. ‘They serve various types of fried chicken from shops with an identical look and feel. We only serve vegan food to a community of discerning people who follow the strict philosophy. There can be no confusion.’

Full Sunday Times report (subscription needed)