A Richmond man copied a well-known Chinese restaurant chain’s branding – then tried to extort $1.5 million from them by offering the same brand for sale.
Wei Meng applied to register in Canada, in 2017, the exact same trademark branding used by the Beijing Judian Restaurant Company – known locally as The Meat Up – a barbecue bar chain which has around 40 outlets in China and three in Canada in Vancouver, Richmond and Toronto.
In 2019, two years after applying to register the trademark – which consists mainly of Chinese “Ju Dian” characters – Meng turned up at The Meat Up’s Vancouver restaurant on Granville Street “demanding to speak to the owner,” according to court documents.
However, as the owner was not around, Meng allegedly told an employee that the restaurant had stolen his trademark in Canada.
Demand allegedly made for $1.5 million
A meeting was then arranged a week later at the restaurant with one of the managers, Lai Lam Sing, at which court documents state that Meng demanded $1.5 million for Beijing Judian to acquire use of the trademarks.
His request for payment was refused.
Another week later Meng sent a letter to the founders of the chain, alleging that Beijing Judian’s restaurants used his trademarks without his permission and infringed his copyright in Canada.
In that letter, Meng stated that he would contact the “registry department” and the Canadian Revenue Agency if the chain did not stop using the trademarks within one week.
And a month later, the owners of the restaurant chain noticed an ad on local Chinese-language website VanSky, offering the sale of the registration of the same trademarks.
Trademark available on VanSky for $100,000
A third party known to the restaurant owners contacted the seller – who, according to court documents, turned out to be Meng – who was asking for $100,000 a year for the trademark so the buyer could open up a franchise with the Ju Dian characters.
Last year, the restaurant chain filed an application in a Toronto court, requesting that Meng’s 2019 trademark be declared invalid, given that it was “registered in bad faith” and that he had no intention of using it for business purposes, other than to “extort” money from Beijing Judian.
In a judgement released last week, Judge Angela Furlanetto granted the restaurant chain’s application, adding that she agreed with them in their assertion that it “it is implausible to contemplate that (Meng) could have created this same original design on his own.”
The judge also noted evidence from the restaurant chain that Meng had used a similar tactic when applying to register in Canada the trademarks of other well-known Chinese restaurants, “with the same intention” and for supposed “proposed use.”
Meng did not submit any evidence to the court, nor did he appear for the recent video court hearing.
Evidence points to extortion: Judge
“The evidence indicates that (Meng) registered the (trademarks) with the intention of extorting money from (Beijing Judian) or using (their) reputation…to obtain money from others,” stated the judge.
“The evidence demonstrates that (Meng) registered the (trademark) without a legitimate commercial purpose.
“In my view, the circumstances here constitute bad faith and the registration for the (trademarks) should be found invalid and expunged accordingly.”
However, the judge denied the chain’s application for damages for “confusion or the likelihood of confusion in the marketplace” caused by Meng’s actions, saying there was “insufficient evidence.”
She did rule that the chain was entitled to court costs, which will be determined at a later date.