Burger King, the famous Miami-based fast food joint that launched in India in November this year, may have to find a new name for its brand to operate in the country as it is embroiled in a trademark lawsuit with an Indian burger joint of the same name.
Burger King Restaurants Pvt., the Gujarat-based fast food joint, started operating in India in 1996 as local caterers. Gradually, the Indian Burger King opened up food carts and now it has three outlets in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state.
The battle started off with the American Burger King suing the Indian fast food joint for trademark infringement. The U.S. chain said that it had trademarked its name in India in 1970 and the smaller joint was ignoring the rules.
However, the India Burger King counter-sued the global brand saying its trademark right had expired and, therefore, they did not have the rights to use the name in the Indian market, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Vishamber Shewakramani, the head of the Indian Burger King franchise, told WSJl that they would not back down and would fight till the matter was resolved. Lawyers involved in the matter said that the process could take years and until then, both parties could continue sharing the title.
If the Indian company manages to win the suit, the global Burger King brand may have to use another name to operate in the country.
Meanwhile, both the companies have massive expansion plans. The global Burger King is all set to launch more stores in Mumbai by the end of this year. India is its 100th country.
"India is a very important market for Burger King. Not just in the Asia-Pacific region but globally it is a significantly important market," Rajeev Varman, head of the Indian arm of the global Burger King brand, told CNBC in a previous interview.
The Indian Burger King also has plans of multiplying the number of stores from three to 20. They also plan on setting up food carts and outlets in malls.
The trademark infringement issue is not new for foreign companies in the Indian market. Groupon had also faced a similar lawsuit from Indian rival ValueNet Ecommerce, which was operating a coupon and daily deal website with the same name, according to the Business Standard.
The American Burger King is a late entrant in the Indian market. It launched its beef-free whoppers last month but the market didn't react well to the move. Burger-lovers took to social media to express their angst against the "no-beef" decision.
"Whopper as chicken is unacceptable. That sir is not a Whopper. It looks more like a chicken sandwich trying to be cool," one user posted on Facebook.
But Burger King is committed to getting its foothold in the market.
"I will only worry about the ability to grow rapidly once I am past, say, 200 outlets. Right now, there is a lot to play with," Varman told Forbes in an interview.