ELLSWORTH — Pad thai and mee ped may be listed on several menus, but only one menu in town may have Bangkok in its name.
A Hancock County Superior Court judge ruled this week that a new Main Street restaurant must change its name, having adopted one that is too similar to that of a well-established restaurant only a few miles away on the Bar Harbor Road.
Sisouk Inthavong, owner of The Bangkok, filed suit last month, arguing that a newly opened restaurant, the Bangkok Express, had chosen a name that could be misleading to his loyal customers. Because Bangkok Express had opened in a downtown location once occupied by The Bangkok, the potential for confusion was heightened, his attorney, Charles Gilbert of Bangor, argued.
Justice Francis Marsano agreed. On Wednesday, Marsano enjoined the owners of Bangkok Express from using the name. In his ruling, Marsano said it was “manifestly likely” that the use of the name would cause confusion and dilution of The Bangkok’s registered name.
The defendants, Suppachais Vonglakhorn and Sirinan Thananitsuk, had argued the name of a geographical location could not become a trade name. According to information released by Gilbert, the defendants cited the Ellsworth American and the Ellsworth Auto Mall as examples of a location being used in several business names.
Gilbert countered that argument, saying a geographical name may acquire secondary meaning and may be entitled to protection, as in a case in the early 1900s involving “Vichy” water.
“The Bangkok restaurant has operated here for a number of years and has invested in name recognition and customer identification. Just like the Coca-Colas and McDonald’s of the world, the value of the name would be diluted if someone else used the same or similar name,” Gilbert said.
The ruling does not affect the operation of Bangkok Express, only its name. The owner could not be reached for comment on Thursday regarding any planned name change.