Great British chef in row with former restaurant which trademarked his name
A BBC Great British Menu chef is in the midst of a row with his former restaurant, which trademarked his name – and is selling the rights to his recipes.
James Cochran left his self-named restaurant in the City of London earlier this year. The company, Rayeula, has continued to trade the restaurant under the same name.
Mr Cochran, a former two Michelin Star chef, argued that customers will be confused, believing they are eating food cooked by him – and that he will be unable to use his own name to market his new restaurant, 1251, in Islington.
On the eve of his BBC Two debut, the company set up a website, jamescochran.co.uk, which advertises the use of his name and recipes for £25 a week to pubs and restaurants.
He tweeted: “Anyone wanna buy me? My ex-employers are the lowest of low trying to sell off my name as recipes plans??!! Wtf?? Who is going to pay £25 a week just to add my name in front of the recipe?? I will give you the recipes for free if you’re that low!!”
The chef claimed the restaurant acts as if he still cooks there. In their Twitter biography, James Cochran EC3 write: “James’ food takes influence from his Scottish/Caribbean heritage.”
Mr Cochran argued: “End of the day, you’re trading under my name, and I ain’t there!”
Celebrated chefs from across the UK have piled in to support Mr Cochran, including Ellis Barrie, who co-owns Good Food Guide-listed The Marram grass. He tweeted: “This is mad .. my mate James who is on great British menu this week has his old employer using and abusing his name and selling it without James’ permission! Any one out there who can help James fight this can have a free meal at the marram or any of my establishments!”
Award-winning chef Tom Brown, who recently opened Cornerstone in Hackney, agreed, writing: “This really is some of the most bafflingly obvious practice of trying to milk customers unsuspectingly by using someone else’s name… legality aside, surely the owners of @jcochranchef must have seen this backlash coming?!”
The owners of the James Cochran brand said they had trademarked his name long ago, before he left the company, and that it was well before he secured his appearance on the Great British Menu.
They added: “Along with a broad range of misconceptions being repeated in the public domain—such as the factually incorrect statement that James Cochran the chef is disallowed from using his own name—the owners of the James Cochran trademark are disappointed that no one has reported that not only have they attempted to negotiate with James at various points regarding his acquiring ownership of the trademark, but they remain open to negotiation.
“To date Mr James Cochran’s only offer to acquire the trademark was for a sum less than it cost to complete trademarking. This is perhaps ironic given that part of Mr Cochran’s histrionic rhetoric in the public domain focuses on baseless accusations that the owners are reaping the financial benefits of this valuable trademark. The owners of the trademark remain entirely open to reasonable offers from James that allow them to recoup their investment in the brand.”
Lawyer Ian Barlett, Head of the Trademarks Department at Beck Greener, said he believes the restaurant company will probably retain its right to use James Cochran’s name.
He cited the case of Elizabeth Emanuel, the designer of Princess Diana’s wedding dress, who lost control of the company bearing her name and appealed to the court, arguing the company should not be able to sell dresses she has not made using her name.
Mr Barlett explained: “The court said no, that’s not how these things work, they refused her application and the company was allowed to continue using the name, because first of all she had entered into an agreement with the company that gave them the right to use her name, and second, the company had registered the trademark with her consent.
“I think it’s possible that this chef might be in the same position. It depends whether or not he consented to the use of his name.”