Coffee King’s company sues ‘queen’ over alleged brand violation

By Anh Minh   June 25, 2018 | 09:13 pm PT
Coffee King’s company sues ‘queen’ over alleged brand violation
The dispute over the G7 brand started at the end of last year. Photo by VnExpress/Dat Nguyen
Legal battle between Trung Nguyen’s CEO and his wife continues after husband’s surprise reappearance in public.

Vietnam’s top coffee brand Trung Nguyen has officially accused its CEO’s wife of infringing its property rights by producing and selling its G7 brand instant coffee.

The petition, sent to Ho Chi Minh City Customs, claims that a factory currently managed by Le Hoang Diep Thao, estranged wife of Trung Nguyen CEO Dang Le Nguyen Vu, is illegally producing the G7 instant coffee. The factory, located in the northern province of Bac Giang, has no right to produce Trung Nguyen’s G7 brand, the Trung Nguyen Investment Jsc contends.

The General Department of Customs has asked the Market Surveillance Agency (MSA) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade to find and share the latest information on the use of Trung Nguyen’s G7 brand to guarantee the trademark ownership of this company.

However, the MSA has said it is unable to deal with the matter immediately, as it is currently waiting for a final decision on the divorce case involving Vu and Thao.

It has also said that its inspectors are yet to find evidence that coffee produced by Thao’s factory counterfeits Trung Nguyen’s products.

The Trung Nguyen petition was filed just a few days after CEO Vu, known as Vietnam’s Coffee King, unexpectedly showed up in public last week after a hiatus of five years.

The dispute over the G7 brand started at the end of last year when Trung Nguyen asked Ho Chi Minh City Customs to suspend production of coffee labeled Trung Nguyen at Thao’s factory in Bac Giang, claiming it was a violation of Trung Nguyen’s intellectual property rights.

Observers say that the dispute is part of the costly and lengthy legal battle between Vu and Thao, which started in April 2015 when Trung Nguyen dismissed Thao from her leading positions in the company and its subsidiaries.

In November 2015, Thao filed for divorce, and the case is yet to be resolved pending the settling of the corporate dispute between the husband and wife.

While Vu was away, Thao founded another coffee brand called King Coffee, saying that this was her way of preserving the coffee brand, as she feared Trung Nguyen was going downhill.

However, Trung Nguyen, which also operates in the franchise, tourism and retail sectors, has belied Thao’s expectations.

The company has kept its total revenue and gross profit stable at more than VND3.8 trillion ($166.2 million) and around VND800 billion ($35 million) respectively in 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to the Vietnam Industry Research and Consultancy. The brand’s total assets jumped from VND5 trillion in 2014 to nearly VND6.3 trillion in 2016, a 20 percent increase.

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