Friday, 3 February 2012

Venezuela: the daily bread - arepa

The word ‘arepa’ has become the latest discussion in many networks comments/arguments and the like (here, and here). Arepa is the noun of our daily bread in Venezuela and also a popular dish in Colombia, Panama, Puerto Rico and other Latin America countries in which they do use the same name - arepa.

In November 2009 ‘Arepa Cafe’ opened its doors in Toronto, Canada offering to the community the traditional Venezuelan dish ‘arepa’. At the same time the company began the process for registering the trade mark ‘Arepa Cafe’ at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office – in April 2011 the Office granted trade mark protection. Simultaneously there was a young Venezuelan national with a small food stall [more of a take-away] in Kensington market (also in Toronto, Canada) by the name ‘Arepa Market’. To make the story short ‘Arepa Cafe’ started a legal battle asking the owner of ‘Arepa Market’ to remove the name that identified his business on the grounds that it confused consumers and affected its customers. The tale ended in the closure of the latter property due to its owner not been able to finance a court case.

Eventually the story became known and spread. It all started as a message on a Facebook group and suddenly it became a snowball with hundreds of comments by annoyed Venezuelans [oops including me] and even an official statement from the company involved – ‘Arepa Cafe’.

For the Venezuelan community's it is an injustice because the word ‘arepa’ is a common word in the Venezuelan and Latin American vocabulary and to see someone taken over this word is like ‘hijacking’.

The Legal MatterThe word ‘arepa’ is not a common word in English or French, and thus there is no absolute grounds for refusal of registration. This situation would not be the same if the word was ‘burger’ for example – ‘burger cafe’ and ‘burger market’ may coexist. But ‘arepa’ is not a customary word in Canada and thus the trade mark ‘arepa cafe’ is for the Canadian people a very distinctive name; to put it in another way, the word ‘arepa’ has no meaning. Yet, we are in presence of a compound sign here. The example given before: ‘burger cafe’ and ‘burger market’ may coexist because the marks are not identical and thus both an aural and visual identity may be required.

The compound name should be analysed as one rather than salami slicing the name the word ‘arepa’ stands out and thus make the trade mark distinctive. Therefore to conclude the ‘arepa’ dilemma, the sign ‘arepa market’ which is used (well, was) in the course of trade for the same services to those in relation to which the trade mark ‘arepa cafe’ has been registered is similar. I am afraid therefore that the owner of ‘apera cafe’ did have the legitimate right to enforce its trade mark.

Any hopes?While I do agree, as a Venezuelan, that the term limit any other Canadian competition in the industry, there is the possibility that the parties interested to use such a term are able to identify and establish that the term ‘arepa’ has a meaning and its customary in the trade. For example last year on July 2011 CNN published an article titled 'World's 50 most delicious foods' and the 'arepa' was placed at number 20 - winning to the croissant No 21 and brownie No 22!

Source Noticias24.

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