Can you trademark "Cafe" or "coffee shop"?

by chee Leng (on coffee makers)

Kopitiam in Singapore

Kopitiam in Singapore

I doubt you can trademark terms such as "cafe" or "coffee shop", and the IP office would probably not even entertained such submissions.

But, in Indonesian, court actually award the intellectual property rights for Kopitiam to a businessman Abdul Alek Selystio.

Kopitiam is a local slang for coffee shop. Kopi is malay for coffee, tiam is shop in Chinese dialect Hokkien which means shop.

This term "Kopitiam" is used throughout the South East Asia, and it is as generic as cafe or Coffee shop.

With the court awarding the IP rights to Mr Abdul, he has gone on to sue other shops that uses the term Kopitiam.

Can you imagine people sueing you because you have the word cafe as part of your shop name?

My $0.02

Countries such as Indonesians has been criticized by some as one that holds no regard for IP and trademarks. I guess, now they are looking at it seriously but probably at the wrong angle.

While, the safeguard of IP would no doubt improves confidence of investor, the wrong application is worse than not doing anything with it.

Can you imagine a common and generic term such as kopitiam can be secured, does that mean loopholes in the system?

Or, does this means, the IP law in Indonesia is not that sound?

This could potentially mean that one could secured any terms in Indonesia and when a big MNC moves in, one could simple sue them or ask for compensation.

This is probably very similar to the case of Ipad in China. The difference is of course, the China company register it in 1996.

There are many shops that uses kopitaim, I wonder what is going to happen? Lots of suing and legal cases? Wouldn't that be amount up to wasting of taxpayers resources?

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