Attorneys for Chicago-based Aloha Poke Co. have apparently issued a series of cease-and-desist letters to other sushi bowl shops across the country in an attempt to protect its client’s trademarked name. A restaurant in Fairhaven, Washington, has changed its name in response (from “Aloha Poke” to “Fairhaven Poke”). The owners, via Facebook, wrote that their company had to remove all traces of the word “aloha” from its branding (the website, “alohapokefairhaven.com,” has since been taken down).
Aloha Poke Co. debuted in February 2016 at Chicago’s French Market, and owner Zach Friedlander filed for a trademark in January 2016, and the government granted him the mark in June 2016. Friedlander wasn’t immediately reached for comment. He and his company have plans to open more restaurants in Chicago and outside of Illinois. There are currently four Aloha Poke Co. restaurants.
It’s a competitive market for poke. Aloha Poke Co’.s Chicago rivals include FireFin Poke Shop and bowls coming from grocery stores including Whole Foods and Mariano’s. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the gigantic restaurant chain, recently dipped their toes into the ocean and opened ASAP Poke, a delivery-only restaurant based out of Lincoln Park.
Apparently this type of legal manuvering isn’t uncommon. Fairhaven Poke is co-owned by David Jacobsen and Mark Ushijima. They added, via Facebook, that “you would be surprised how many ‘poke’ names have been trademarked.”
UPDATE: Friedlander emailed a statement. He acknowledged that he wants to expand and open more shops and that “we have spent considerable time and resources in developing the highest quality poke and customer service experience that is now associated with our Aloha Poke trademarks.”
Aloha Poke Co. had no intention in “interfering with the business model” of the Fairhaven shop, and Friedlander wrote that they’re working together on a solution that would work for both parties.
“This really just comes down to business and protecting the Aloha Poke Co. entity,” Friedlander wrote. “When we see other poke places doing well across the country, we’re elated because it means that this isn't just a trend — it's a movement.”