Feathers are flying once again in the rivalry between Chicken Inn and Chicken Slice. This time, Chicken Inn is crying fowl over what it sees as its rival’s trademark infringement.
In a court filing, Chicken Inn says it hatched the “Luv dat chicken” trademark back in 1987, only for Chicken Slice, a spring chicken in the business, to this year start using the word “luv” in its own branding.
“The use of the element ‘luv’ in particular, and the phrase ‘luv it’ in general, by the first defendant (Chicken Slice) is identical with, and so nearly resembles, Chicken Inn’s registered trademark as aforepresented, is likely to deceive or cause confusion amongst customers in the market,” Chicken Inn’s papers say.
“In addition, the use of the offending mark by first defendant in its marketing, in conjunction with a colour scheme strikingly resembling that of Chicken Inn amounts to passing off by misrepresentation.”
The two rivals have been ruffling each other’s feathers since 2010, when Chicken Slice entered a market, in which Chicken Inn has ruled the roost since 1990.
The cock fight has been over branding – Chicken Slice has been accused before of trademark infringement – but the row has also been over location. Tawanda Mutyebere, founder of Chicken Slice, at one time asked why Chicken Inn had crossed the road to open its outlets close to his.
“They have been busy opening everywhere and close to us,” he said in 2014, after Chicken Inn opened a branch near his flagship Mvuma complex.
In Harare, when Chicken Inn also opened a branch on Kwame Nkrumah, just over a 100 metres from a Chicken Slice outlet, Mutyebere again complained. However, Innscor, at the time the holding company of Chicken Inn, pointed out: “The latest Chicken Slice was opened recently in Mbare next to our Baker’s Inn complex which has been operational for 18 months and we never complained.”
“The fast food business is driven by location and demographic trends. This is a universal axiom and is not peculiar to Zimbabwe,” Innscor said then.
Simbisa Brands, which owns the Chicken Inn franchise, has 210 outlets in the country, compared to Chicken Slice’s 25. Last year, Simbisa added eight new counters and is investing $10 million this year to open a further 21 outlets.
Chicken Inn has always jealously guarded its perch. In 2012, Innscor sued a businessman, Takesure Mbano, after he hatched a plan to set up his own outlet, Chickenza Inn, nestled on the Mutare highway outside Ruwa.
In court, Innscor argued that Mbano’s brands – which also included Creamy Chickenza and Pizza Chickenza – “closely resemble applicant’s registered trademarks and are likely to deceive or cause confusion”.