The well-known high street chicken restaurant, Nando’s, has attracted legal and national headlines in its pursuit of ‘copycat’ restaurant, Fernando’s, based in Reading.

Barely in business for six months, the team behind Reading’s newest chicken-focused eatery caught the attention of Nando’s legal team, who alleged trade mark infringement and passing off.

Nando’s instructed their lawyers, (ironically, Bird & Bird) to send a cease and desist letter claiming that Fernando’s were infringing a number of Nando’s trade marks for their name, a logo in the form of Portugal’s Barcelos rooster (the unofficial symbol of Portugal) and a multi-coloured chilli, with the words “Extra Hot / Hot / Mild / Lemon & Herb”. Nando’s claimed that Fernando’s infringement of their marks extended to the external signage of the restaurant, the interior and the menu. Nando’s also claimed passing off and that Fernando’s were trying to “benefit from some things that make us who we are – our menu, logo and even our name”.

Whilst the cease and desist letter appeared to have the desired effect and Fernando’s are reportedly planning to change elements of its business in a bid to avoid a legal battle, it has been a PR disaster for Nando’s. Fernando’s owner, Asam Aziz, went straight to the local press, which was picked up by the BBC and national newspapers. Mr Aziz said his chicken restaurant was being “bullied” by a multinational company who felt threatened by the positive reviews customers were giving Fernando’s.

Whatever the legal outcome may be, it is a telling reminder of the PR risks of a large brand ‘going after the little man’, and the potential fall out. The publicity generated for Fernando’s in Reading and surrounds will ensure their customer following, despite any disruption to their current brand.