KFC Claims Trademark Infringement Over Tiny English Pub's "Family Feast"

Do not be so bold as to name a menu item “Family Feast,” even if you sell the item once a year on Christmas and you own a tiny pub on top of a remote mountain in England. What? Didn’t you know that KFC’s trademark applies to people who live on top of mountains and own pubs and have their picture taken with sheep wandering around? Tracy Daly is such a person, and she has received a very serious legal threat from KFC over an item on her menu called, “Family Feast.”

At first she thought it was a joke, but when she called the lawyer who’d signed the letter, she found out that KFC took her trademark infringement very seriously.

“I told him to look at our website. We and KFC are worlds apart in the food business. We are not in the High Street we are so remote we are just a speck on the landscape. But he was so serious that in the end I had to put the phone down.

“It beggars belief, I am dumbfounded. They are a multi-million pound, international organisation and I am a little lady up a mountain.

“I don’t like bullies and I think they want to bully me. They have turned heavy-duty, big-city lawyers loose on us, but I have already had to firms of solicitors offering to take on our case for nothing.

“We will have to consider what we do, but we just hope KFC will realise they have been a bit silly and just let it drop. Perhaps we should apolgise on our website for threatening their business.”

Tracy continues:

“It’s a traditional Christmas dinner: pate, turkey, road beef and the trimmings, Christmas pud. It about as similar to a KFC meal as chalk is to cheese.

“We do have chicken and chips with a salad on the menu, but we use local free-range birds – no coating, no secret spices. I could understand if we had set out to rip off what they do, but this is worlds away.”

You’re probably thinking, “How silly. KFC must have made a mistake. Surely when the reporter contacted them about the absurdity of it all…” Here’s KFC’s response:

“Family Feast is a registered trade mark of Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Limited. KFC devotes significant resources to promoting and protecting its trade marks. This particular instance is being dealt with by our solicitors.”

Perhaps we should add Yum! Brands to Faces of the RIAA. —MEGHANN MARCO

KFC launches legal action against pub’s festive menu [thisislondon]
(Photo: thisislondon)

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  1. gotbock says:

    Now I’m not say this situation isn’t ridiculous, but what most people don’t realize about trademarks is that if you don’t protect them you lose them. Large companies like Coca-Cola and Xerox take their trademark protection very seriously because those trademarks are worth a lot of money as intellectual property. Xerox almost lost theirs at one point as everyone (including their competition) started referring to copy machines and copies as “xeroxes”.

  2. B says:

    Normally I’d object to big business trying to bully the little guy, but the inedible slop they serve at KFC is about as close to the inedible slop they serve at tiny English pubs as possible.

  3. arelys521 says:

    Well, when you create a product name as unique and imaginative as “Family Feast,” you have to fight hard to protect it.

  4. bluemeep says:

    Y’know, if you cock your head to the side and kind of squint, that sheep looks suspiciously like the Colonel…

  5. road beef?

    Christmas pud? (pudding I hope)

  6. arelys521 says:

    @gotbock: Sidenote: Band-aid, Kleenex, Seran Wrap (on a smaller scale) — these all are used as general terms, and are all strong brands. It’s a good thing when people use a company’s brand name to define the general product.

  7. duckyvoodoo says:

    If you can’t trademark a movie or book title, how could you possibly trademark the words “Family Feast”?? That makes so very little sense.

  8. ObtuseGoose says:

    Family Feast sounds so generic, I’m surprised they were able to get a trademark for it. They should just call it Tan Hill Inn’s Christmas Feast. I don’t think anyone would confuse that with KFC’s crapfest.

  9. gotbock says:

    @arelys521: A good thing when a customer uses a company’s brand to define a product, but not good when a competitor does. There’s a big difference. Still, I don’t think the tiny English pub really constiutes a direct competitor of KFC in this case.

  10. hubris says:

    @arelys521:
    Actually, not really. Yes, they are used colloquially as names for a larger variety of products, but they’re opposed by the companies that own the trademarks, too. And they aren’t allowed to be used in forms of media in a general sense. Of course they can’t regulate what people on the street call their products, but they can in other places.

    Why do you think Google is so opposed to their name being used as verb? Because if they didn’t say anything and just let it happen, Google’s trademark would go away, as it would enter the domain of common usage. (See this article: http://www.ipfrontline.com/depts/article.asp?id=12397&dept

    That being said, it’s ridiculous that KFC was able to trademark such a broad term as “family feast”.

  11. hubris says:

    @omerhi:

    Whoops, I linked that all retarded-like. Try this: http://www.ipfrontline.com/depts/article.asp?id=12397&dept

  12. tentimesodds says:

    @arelys521: Look on the packages and you’ll see what omerhi is talking about. Band-Aid brand bandages. Kleenex brand facial tissue.

    If the public starts using your brand as a proxy for the product itself, you can lose your rights in the brand. Basic trademark law.

  13. Jamie Beckland says:

    @arelys521: Actually, losing your brand is not considered a good thing. TiVo in particular has been very aggressive about distinguishing itself from other DVRs. The concern for corporations is that people will not be willing to pay a higher price for a product that the public does not see as differentiated.

    See more details here:

    http://www.tivoblog.com/archives/2004/12/13/protecting-tiv

    Sorry to thread jack…

    I do agree with your earlier comment: the KFC trademark may have been granted to a phrase that the courts could deem too broad.

  14. Jamie Beckland says:

    Good to see I am not the only one having problems linking today…

    Try this:

    http://www.tivoblog.com/archives/2004/12/13/protecting-tiv

  15. quantum-shaman says:

    Well I Googled “family feast”. Apparently, all they have to do is insert the word “The” in front of the offending phrase and their problems are solved. At least those KFC problems… but they’re no doubt themselves up to get sued by the people in Texas who own “thefamilyfeast.com” domain. Hey, bet I can parlay this into a second career by being a snitch for corporate lawyers!

  16. JDAC says:

    Uh oh, more lawsuits a-coming then:

    http://thefamilyfeast.com/

    http://www.familycares.org/projects/familyCaresFamilyFeast

    http://www.amazon.com/E-Waldo-Ward-Family-Feast/dp/B0006B7

    And so on through the list of search results for “Family Feast”.

  17. JDAC says:

    @quantum-shaman: damn, 2 minutes ya beat me by!

  18. Papercutninja says:

    By “local, free-range birds”, she means un-punched chickens, right?

    I hope this little pub wins. And who the hell is the rat bastard that snitched on them?!

  19. acambras says:

    Here are some more that I thought of:

    * iPod (vs. other mp3 players)
    * Ziploc bag (even more popular with TSA’s new rules on liquids)
    * “Mc-” put in front of just about any word (e.g., McMansion)
    * I wouldn’t be shocked if one car company had come up with the term “SUV.”
    * Aspirin (used to be a brand name) — even now I’ll say that I took some Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, or Claritin, when in actuality I took the generic equivalent.

    Jeez, growing up in the South, I never heard anyone offer their guests “pop” or “soda.” It was always, “Ya want a Coke? OK, what kind? Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper?”

  20. Mary_Beth says:

    I would like to point out that it is highly unlikely that this cute little pub sits on top of a mountain in England…there are no mountains in England. They have a few “gently rolling hills” but nothing that could be remotely considered a mountain by anyone other than the English themselves.

  21. ZugTheMegasaurus says:

    I’m just wondering how in the world KFC even found out about that. Do they have scouts or something that go out to remote places and look for items on the menu that are only sold once a year, just in case there might be some sort of trademark issue?

  22. Hoss says:

    Is there any bad news in the story? So Tan Hill Inn now is semi-famous. Drink your fizzy and enjoy

  23. rixatrix says:

    It looks like Consumerist is a bit behind the times:

    >>KFC at first confirmed the lawsuit but a spokesman for the fast food firm said later the company had decided to drop its legal fight.

    A spokesperson for KFC GB Ltd said this afternoon: “KFC has to protect its trademarks against those who seek to trade off its brand. KFC has spoken to Mrs. Daly at the Tan Hill Inn and confirmed that it will not take this case any further.

    “This means that Mrs Daly can continue to use the phrase “family feast” on the pub’s Christmas menu. It’s an unusual situation that has been blown out of all proportion.”

    Article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/

    Hmm, did they drop it because they knew they had no case at all? Quite possibly so.

    From what I understand of copyright and trademark law, the whole thing was doomed from the get go.

  24. jbeeching says:


    I think comparing the “Family Feast” phrase to ‘brand names’ like Xerox and Coke is apples and oranges. “Family Feast” is really just a featured item on KFC’s menu. My concern with this is something as vague and general being allowed to be copywrited. If I register “Two for Tuesday” that means no bars could provide discounted drinks under that moniker? Or radio stations wouldn’t be playing two songs by the same artists? I don’t like it one bit and totally agree with the previous poster knocking the “unique and imaginative” wordplay. P.S.- you ‘pod’casters be wary of Apple coming your way…

  25. Islingtonian says:

    @

  26. Islingtonian says:

    ugh, sorry about the post above. what i meant to say, to mary-beth, is that the pub is located in the yorkshire dales. the peaks there qualify as mountains in england, even if they’d be ‘tall hills’ just about anyplace else.

  27. royal72 says:

    kfc you suck.

    is anyone from kfc is reading consumerist? you can take your absurdly generic trademark, your 11 secret herbs and spices, your sorry-ass dry biscuits, and shove ‘em up your ass (do i need to TM any of that for legality?).

    i will not eat kfc again and since were talking greasy fast food chicken, think i’ll have popeyes for lunch today. i do believe they are your number one competitor… and they have way better biscuits!

  28. Onouris says:

    @Mary_Beth:

    I’m sure you’ve checked them all out, right?

    Since Ben Nevis rises twice as high over the surroundings as required to be defined as a mountain, ‘gentle rolling hills’ is something I suppose you just pulled out of nowhere.

    @Papercutninja:

    I have no idea what an un-punched chicken is, but by free range she means free range.

  29. kimsama says:

    Can we give Tracy Daly some sort of award for the way she talks? “It beggars belief” and “as chalk is to cheese”? I love it!

  30. MonkeyMonk says:

    Stories like this always piss me off. It’s good to hear that KFC dropped the case. It wouldn’t have gotten “blown out of proportion” if KFC hadn’t sued the inn in the first place.

    The best remedy in situations like this is to respond with your pocket book. Don’t eat at KFC. Hell, don’t eat at any Yum Brands chain restaurant (as if you really need an excuse . . . I stopped going to KFC when they served me a cooked chicken lung in a piece of breast meat).

  31. SadSam says:

    That little lamb in the middle is soooooo darn cute and it looks to be friends with the dog. I love it. KFC sucks!

  32. kskatzke says:

    > From what I understand of copyright and trademark law, the
    > whole thing was doomed from the get go.

    Nah, it wasn’t doomed. How many hours did the lawyers get to bill KFC for?

    That’s who really won… as usual.

  33. MaliBoo Radley says:

    @Mary_Beth:

    Is it necessary to take a dump on my country?

  34. MarkMadsen'sDanceInstructor says:

    I have no love for KFC, but I have to agree with the first poster on this one. If you don’t enforce your trademarks against everyone, you risk losing them. With a phrase as simple as Family Feast, I can see how many people might be tempted to use the same phrase, meaning that it could be easy for them to lose the trademark.

  35. Craig says:

    I would have loved to have seen this go to court (with a high-powered law firm handling the case pro bono for the inn) just to see “Family Feast” found to be too generic for trademark status.

  36. synergy says:

    Hmm. The highest peak in the dales is Whernside at 2416ft/736m.

    The highest peak in Texas, a state not particularly known for mountains, is Guadalupe Peak at 8749ft/2667m.

  37. I dont think anybody should have a protected right to have exclusive control over a form of communication. I think that is absurd. I dont care how much money that person or company is making off of those words it is completely ridiculous that anybody would even entertain the idea of allowing anything or anybody to tyrannize our minds and our ways of living and communicating like that.

    Fucking Bizarre. (R)TM

    I hereby claim the previous words as my own and any person hereafter who uses them will owe me money. Get in line BITCHES.

  38. lestat730 says:

    It drives me crazy when people call their mp3 player an ‘iPod’ when it’s obviously not. They see nothing wrong with going around saying their 256mb screenless $30 mp3 player is an iPod.

    Additionally theres a church in our area that has a sign up every year that reads something like “Come to our family feast this christmas and help raise money for…..”

  39. tamasha says:

    Good Lord! They didn’t need to pick on someone overseas to try and “protect” family feast … a quick look here in the States turns up a company in TX offering meals for “the Family Feast” .. (http://www.thefamilyfeast.com) and even Omaha Steaks offers the fantastic Family Feast.

    Sounds to me as if a junior clerk didn’t have enough to do, and didn’t do enough research to make their “cease and desist” quota..uh..performance expectation.

    Sigh

  40. PlanetExpressdelivery says:

    I think KFC may have dropped the suit, because a judge could possibly consider the vagueness of the term “Family Feast”. That means that KFC themselves would have lost the intellectual rights to their own name.

  41. Trai_Dep says:

    The difference btn iPod, Kleenex, etc, and what KFC is doing is that the former put a GREAT deal of effort into coming up with a name that is unique yet evocative of the product.

    KFC choose a patently common phrase and are now relying on bullying and a floor of lawyers to sue to avoid the confusion they created by choosing such a generic, common phrase.

    Thumbs down on KFC on this one.

  42. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I was under the impression that for such a case to be legitimate, there has to be some reason to believe that people would confuse the KFC “family feast” with the one served at the Tan Hill Inn. You know, in this case, I just don’t see that happening. I doubt anyone is going to confuse a craptacular KFC for the Tan Hill Inn.

    I was also under the impression that a trademark had to have a certain amount of specificity in order to be valid, otherwise KFC could trademark the word “feast” and sue everyone. The phrase “family feast” doesn’t seem particularly specific here either.

    This reminds me of the case of Starbucks trying to sue the mom-and-pop coffee place over the name “double shot.” I wonder whatever happened to that?

    Oh, and KFC…I swear, if you introduce the “dwayne_dibbly meal,” I am so going to sue your ass into the next solar system. So there.

  43. lihtox says:

    @Islingtonian: I thought you were trying to trademark the @ sign, for a moment there….

  44. JonathanV says:

    The trademark bodies should never have cleared “Family Feast” for yum foods.

    Perhaps if it were a brand of sneakers, or some sort of medical device like an enema or laxative, it would make sense as a trademark.

    But in regards to food, “Family Feast” is a fairly common term. If I started a new fast food chain, should I be able to trademark “Sunday Dinner” and sue anyone who says that phrase? I don’t think so.

  45. Charles Duffy says:

    As for all the folks who are saying “protect it or lose it” — there’s a middle ground:

    Make the 3rd party who’s using it acknowledge in fine print (on any menus/ads/whatever mentioning their “Family Feast”) that it’s a trademark of Yum Foods, that they are unassociated and that they are using the trademark only by explicit permission.

    There — trademark is protected, but the little guy isn’t completely prohibited from using it.

  46. Trai_Dep says:

    Can’t wait for KFC to trademark, “chicken dinner”. Which is basically what they’re doing.

  47. mechanismatic says:

    @Charles Duffy:

    The little guy shouldn’t have to include pointless fine print in their menus in the first place. There’s no reason anyone would mistake this pub for a KFC or the menu item for a KFC menu item. And KFC should lose its trademark because the menu item name is excessively general. If KFC wants a trademark on the menu item name, they should trademark “KFC Family Feast” instead of just “Family Feast.” A feast for a family is a family feast. A dining establishment shouldn’t have to use a creative, obscure, or awkward vocabulary in order to come up with names for their menu items just because massive corporate chains want to trademark every general food-related phrase in existence.

  48. Trackback says:

    AM, Then FM dishes up some live Zevon; The Week in Rock tackles another set of songs — and out come the Andrew Ridgeley confessions; Consumerist tells us why Verizon has the most evil best lawyers on the planet, then proves corporate stupidity has literally no fucking limit; Py Korry suffers…