A TV Master Chef turned author has cooked up a legal storm over the title of his charity recipe book for children.
Matei Baran was inspired to put together Big Chef Little Chef by his six-year-old son Armin, who was born with cystic fibrosis, with money raised going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
Children have helped to prepare the recipes, which promote healthy eating for all young people, particularly those affected by cystic fibrosis.
But less than a month before publication, Matei has had to change the book’s title after threats of legal action by solicitors representing the owner of the trademark for Little Chef, the chain of motorway restaurants.
Romanian-born Matei, executive head chef at The Salt Cove restaurant in Tynemouth, even offered to acknowledge Little Chef in his book, but that was rejected.
The 40-year-old, a quarter finalist in TV’s Master Chef: the Professionals, said: “I’m lost for words.
“I’ve been planning this book for a long time and the title came to me when I saw a picture of Armin and me. That picture inspired the logo, which looks nothing like Little Chef, and the title matched perfectly.”
He added: “I thought I had done the right thing by applying for a trade mark, but that’s come back to bite me. I haven’t got the money to fight this, but I’ve done nothing wrong. All I’m trying to do is help children and help the charity.”
The Little Chef name is owned by a Kuwaiti-based company called the Kout Food Group and represented by a prominent London commercial law firm, Edwin Coe LLP.
In its letter to Matei it said: “Our client simply cannot allow you to own or use a trade mark containing the element ‘Little Chef’ because it will amongst others, dilute the distinctiveness of our client’s mark.”
It added: “It is also irrelevant that the proceeds from the sale of your book will go to charity and our client rejects and cannot grant you permission to use our client’s mark within the title of your book.”
Edwin Coe LLP had, it said, filed a Notice of Threatened Opposition against Matei’s trade mark application and warned him it would take all other action to “protect its valuable intellectual property rights”.
Faced with these threats Matei said he had no choice but to change the title to Big Chef Mini Chef, but the book will be published as planned.
It will be launched at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, in Newcastle on January 26. Big Chef Mini Chef is available at www.mateibaran.com