Panda Restaurant Group has filed a lawsuit against Gilbert, Arizona restaurant, Panda Libre, claiming the dining establishment is trying to make the public believe that it’s affiliated with Panda Restaurant Group.
Panda Libre is a locally owned, fast-casual restaurant serving Mexican and Asian fusion food, like burritos and tacos filled with orange chicken, sweet and tangy shrimp and bulgogi beef and teriyaki chicken.
Paul Fan, the owner of Panda Libre, said he chose the name because of the word’s association with Asian and Mexican cultures. He opened the restaurant in early 2019 and registered the “Panda Libre” mark on May 7, 2019.
On Aug. 5, 2019, Fan received a cease and desist letter from Panda Restaurant Group, requesting for him to stop using the Panda Libre name and logo.
Fan refused the request because his restaurant had been open for most of the year as Panda Libre, and he had already spent time and money on the restaurant’s signs and materials. He also claimed the restaurant’s concept and logo are different enough from Panda Express that he’s met no one who’s confused his restaurant for the other.
“We’re just a small mom-and-pop place, just one restaurant, barely open a year,” Fan said. “To just continuously having to fight this is really frustrating.”
Panda Restaurant Group accuses Panda Libre of trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution and unfair competition. It asks for the restaurant to destroy all materials that bear the “Panda” marks or “any confusingly similar variations.”
The suit also demands for Panda Libre to pay their profits and cumulative damages and that the amount of recovery be increased as provided by law, up to three times.
Fan expressed his distress about the lawsuit on Facebook and Instagram.
“We are gonna hold on as long as we can, but this news is not good and has put a heavy burden on my family and myself,” Fan wrote. “I can not tell you the amount of stress which this has caused us.”
“We have put our hearts and soul into this business and have tried to always do the right thing for our wonderful community,” Fan wrote in another post. “We (ask) you for prayers, strength, and give us a shining light in our darkest moment.”