Did you know that Mercedes Benz made Filipino tricycles? Are you shocked to find out that Playboy Magazine runs a barbershop chain in Asia? Are you as baffled as we are that Starbucks decided to diversify into the hair cutting business? If all of this sounds like a terrible wet dream, then you have never been to Asia – an entire region built on bootlegged products and brand names. While none of the examples are true(to our knowledge), we can safely assume that these big brands would laugh asses off(right before they lawyered up) if they discovered others were misappropriating their brand.
The truth is, in Asia, global brands are slapped on the most unrelated businesses, resulting in hilarious and equally puzzling product line expansions. It is not hard to figure out why barbershop operators, tricycle owners, or hair salons would want to “borrow” famous international brands, just like how I borrow my friend’s bag of Doritos. A recognized brand, after all, draws attention and a certain set of values-ranging from high quality, attention to detail, going the extra mile, and other values easily come to mind. By simply borrowing a well-known brand, a local business gets to stand apart from its competition while getting a few chuckles along the way. Granted, its not like these brands would ever say yes, so I guess on that note, borrowing is justified?
With this background, it appears that what is happening to the Southland Corporation’s 7-11 brand isn’t so bad. Many of the Asian knock-offs of this world famous convenience store chain don’t straight out cop the 7-11 name and logo and colors. Instead, they came up with all sorts of funky ‘rebranding’ efforts involving mostly the ’11’ in 7-11. Some look almost professional. Most just fall flat.
How many ways can you play with the 7-11 brand? Well, there’s the 7-12 convenience store, the 7-7 store, and Japan’s 7-Mercy store. Note that most of these knock offs use the same number font and a green, white, and orange color scheme. There’s another group of brand knock offs that play with the ‘7’ in 7-11. There’s the 8-11 convenience store in Taiwan, the 8-11, and even a 9-11 store. These knock-off brands, mostly in Taiwan, are used for convenience stores. This should not be a surprise. The whole point is to leech off the convenience, quality, and superb service of 7-11s when promoting a competing service. This is exactly the kind of consumer confusion which trademark law seeks to protect.
The whole point of copyright law is to prevent one brand from being harmed by a competitor’s association of it with inferior products or services. It looks like Intellectual Property (IP) attorneys would have a field day in Asia. But if you aren’t a lawyer, then I highly encourage you to check out 7-Eleven in India, because apparently 7-Eleven is a bar and restaurant rolled into one. Now, if only there was a car wash attached…