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Down in the dumplings: Lawsuit by daughter of local Chinese chefs alleges wonton disregard of trademark

Dumpling Daughter vs. Dumpling Girl

Dumpling Daughter v. Dumpling Girl.

Nadia Liu Spellman, who opened a Chinese dumpling restaurant in Weston with the help of her mother, Sally Ling, this week sued two former workers on charges they stole her concept and some of her recipes to open their own dumpling joint in Millbury.

In the suit, filed this week in US District Court, Spellman alleges the two worked at her Dumpling Daughter just long enough to make note of some of her recipes before departing for the Worcester suburb to open their own restaurant, called Dumpling Girl. The trademark and trade-secrets suit also names a third person involved in the Millbury restaurant.

Spellman charges the offending restaurant copied not just her recipes but even her exact menu wording. She cited these entries from the two restaurants's menus:

Dumpling Daughter
Three Day Pork Ramen
NOT the instant kind!!!!!! Classic pork broth, fresh ramen noodles, pork belly, soft egg, bamboo, red pickled ginger, kombu seaweed, scallions.

Dumpling Girl
Pork Ramen
NOT the instant kind!!!!! Classic pork broth, fresh ramen noodles, pork belly, soft egg, bamboo, red pickled ginger kombu seaweed, scallions.

Spellman says she carefully came up with her dumpling recipes through the experience she gained as the daughter of both Ling and her father, Edward Nan Liu, and through years of travel in China and that

Each recipe used at Dumpling Daughter is unique and was carefully formulated by Spellman who tested and refined each through taste, texture, aesthetic appeal, and careful control of ingredient portions. The recipes used at Dumpling Daughter are further distinguished from other restaurants as Spellman was assisted in their creation by Sally Ling, whose culinary successes are well-known and who only assists Spellman and Dumpling Daughter, thus making Dumpling Daughter's menu offerings truly unique.

She emphasized the proprietary nature of the recipes:

Dumpling Daughter is careful to protect its proprietary recipes by allowing only one current employee - Dumpling Daughter's Kitchen Manager - to possess the recipes. The Kitchen Manager retains Dumpling Daughter's recipes on his smart phone; the recipes on his phone are only available to the Kitchen Manager and he does not distribute them to any other staff members. Rather, the Kitchen Manager instructs various kitchen personnel, including the Defendant Lin before she left the restaurant, on what to prepare and how to prepare it. The Kitchen Manager, Spellman, and Sally Ling are the only individuals who possesses all of Dumpling Daughter's recipes.

Just as bad as the theft of the recipes, the suit continues, is that the copycats aren't very good at what they do - which is harming Dumpling Daughter's reputation because people think it has something to do with Dumpling Girl:

While at Dumping Girl on September 21, 2015, [Dumpling Daughter's manager] also immediately observed that the restaurant immediately appeared messy, staffing was inadequate, service was slow, and overall the Defendants did not appear ready to operate the restaurant. Therefore, if Dumpling Girl was to be confused with Dumpling Daughter, it would bring discredit on and tarnish Dumpling Daughter and the Dumpling Daughter Mark.

Spellman is asking a judge to order Dumpling Girl to stop using the name and recipes and to pay damages.

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Comments

...someone's in some deep pupu.

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a dumpling recipe, let alone the concept of a dumpling restaurant, be considered to be proprietary?

Perhaps every restaurant that bills itself as "House Of Pizza" should be sued on the same basis.

Just more evidence (no pun intended) that we need to seriously reform both copyright law and the civil legal system.

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It's a trademark lawsuit. By copying the menu descriptions exactly in a nearby location with a similar name it could lead someone to believe the two locations are related which they are not. Had they not copied the menu verbatim and chosen a different name they would have less of a lawsuit.

If there was a restaurant called "John's Delicious House of Pizza" and you opened a nearby shop called "John's Amazing House of Pizza" with the same menu wording the original John might have a similar case.

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...including copying the original restaurant's ridiculous over-use of exclamation points on their menu...

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Yeaaaaah if I saw two menus with these 98% exact same menus to each other, I'd DEFINITELY think these were two restaurants were owned by the same people with a play on the name to differentiate the two locations. And then, if I were to find out that these two locations are in fact owned and operated by two completely different parties, THEN I'd think shenanigans are up and question the legitimacy of either restaurant (especially if I didn't know, without doing research, which was the original.) The two restaurants seem far enough away to not really affect sales too much I think, but the clearly spoofed intellectual property on display can damage in other ways.

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The plaintiffs allege a variety of torts

trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C., § 1114, unfair competition under 15 U.S.C., § 1125, unfair methods of competition under M.G.L. c. 93A, § 11, Massachusetts common law trademark infringement, Massachusetts common law unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets, proprietary and confidential information, conversion of trade secrets, proprietary and confidential information and unjust enrichment

but the word "copyright" is nowhere to be found in this lawsuit.

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Trademark, not copyright. Headline fixed.

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This is your best work yet. It's berry punny. Up there with Winning the Pooh headline.

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The Dumpling Daughter logo made me think of Unicode's U+1F4A9 emoji:
IMAGE(http://www.charbase.com/images/glyph/128169)

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Jowza! This is hot news! That dumpling daughter is really boiling. She must be filled with a savory mixture of rage and betrayal. I bet that even if she wins her lawsuit, an hour later she'll be angry again.

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I like how in the caption of the actual case, they named their plaintiff "Dumping Daughter."

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The Dumpling Daughter is pretty weird with its little "hand wings" and spiked-heel shoes. I would have never guessed it was supposed to represent a dumpling.
     ( Is that a tuft of hair sticking out on top?!! )

The Dumpling Girl is somewhat more disturbing — It looks like she has a bruised and battered face, with an enormous black eye.

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I agree with the Dumpling Daughter logo looking pretty ugly. While I don't have an issue recognizing it's a dumpling, I'm not a fan of giving it legs and a face. Just not a very well done antropomorphism.

I do not agree about the one on the right. A cute cartoon face of a young girl happy to serve dumplings. It's probably the one thing Dumpling Girl done right over Dumpling Daughter assuming the everything the article says if correct.

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