My fascination with Chinese people’s attitude toward intellectual properties began in 2005 with the story of the Dumpling Man copycat in the East Village. More recently, I emailed Mala Project when it first opened, informing them that there is already a website called Mala Project run by an American woman who fell in love with Sichuan cuisines (that I visited regularly).
The latest story is in the Lower East Side: New Spicy Village. Eater has an article about it. When I first came across the restaurant, I thought the original Spicy Village on Forsyth had moved. It turns out it’s unrelated. It was opened by a brother of the co-owner and a few people who used to work at Spicy Village.
What is almost comical is that the “New” place has a sign for the original restaurant, complete with its address, phone, and website. Who wouldn’t assume that it’s owned by the same people?
According to the Eater article, the owners of the original aren’t angry but want the identity to be differentiated so that the customers wouldn’t be deceived. Their wish hasn’t been granted, and it’s already been half a year.
Since recipes are not copyrightable, we can’t stop anyone from opening a restaurant a block away with the same exact menu, but New Spicy Village’s story is different: It’s identity theft.
What I find curious is that Chinese people don’t seem bothered by this type of phenomenon. I found two reviews on Google Maps warning people not to be deceived, but neither of them is Asian.
Since there is no concept of private property in communism, I guess many Chinese people see nothing wrong with copying ideas, but even a communist government should care about protecting, or rather, keeping track of identities; otherwise, nothing can be accountable.
The owner of the original Mala Project announced that she didn’t mind the restaurant opening with the same name, and she ended up renaming her site to Mala Market. Needless to say, I felt like a loser who had nothing better to do than stick my nose into someone else’s business. Since then, I haven’t complained about these things. Maybe that’s how Chinese people end up feeling: Yeah, it’s a problem, but whatcha gonna do about it?
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