Former Masterchef: The Professionals semi-finalist and Frog chef Adam Handling has issued a cease and desist to a hit new Camberwell bakery over its name. Handling, who owns the Michelin-starred Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden, has used international law firm Taylor Wessing to instruct Frog Bakery — owned and run by Rebecca Spaven and Oliver Costello, and one of the best bakeries in London — to change its name. Frog Bakery opened in April of this year, having run as a pop-up under that name since June 2021.
One of Handling’s trademarks is for “THE FROG,” styled in capital letters, and was registered in March 2017; the Intellectual Property Office received the application in November 2016. His restaurant is referred to as both Frog by Adam Handling and The Frog on its website.
The crux of the case is that there’s a potential cause for confusion between two businesses that both exist in the London hospitality industry. As Spaven told Eater: “It’s the kind of potential for confusion, because we are within the same industry [...] if we were to cater an event as Frog, basically someone could potentially assume that it was Adam’s Frog that was catering that event.” A statement from the Adam Handling Restaurant Group (AHRG) shared with Eater said, “[the] choice of name conflicts with our earlier rights and has caused confusion amongst many of our diners and within the hospitality industry.”
Spaven and Costello have been given a six-week deadline, from 14 July 2022, to make all changes, but the duo through its own lawyers have requested a three-month timeline to implement what will be a completely new identity, having only recently established one under the name Frog Bakery. They are resigned to the fact they will have to change the name, although the frog logo will remain in situ. (Costello and his dad will be relieved that Handling has no rights over artistic impressions of frogs, since they have both had the logo tattooed on themselves; Costello senior’s first and only inking.)
The Camberwell bakery is a small operation, with only Spaven and Costello on hand to handle all of the business-related administration, so they say they’re just not able to make any changes in six weeks. Their legal advice has also convinced them that such a timeframe is not “normal.”
The whole thing came has a huge surprise, out of nowhere, with Spaven initially thinking the email from the law firm was going to be an invitation for an outside catering job. “I got really excited. And I read the email and the letter attached. And I was just like totally numb, so unexpected.” The duo said they’d done a search for bakeries with the name Frog before they chose it, but had never heard of Adam Handling, nor his restaurant group.
“Financially, it’s not going to be a massive hit,” a relieved Spaven told Eater. “Because we haven’t got a huge amount of printed stuff. We have a sign that we need to get repainted. And these new stamps, but like, we did this whole thing on the cheap. So luckily, yeah, there’s not a huge amount to do. It’s more the reputational and emotional cost of it. It’s our identity and we’re gonna have a lot of work to do, especially get word out there. This is who we are now.” Some of that work is already being done by fans of the bakery online.
AHRG also confirmed that the “directors of Frog Bakery have responded and we anticipate resolving matters amicably soon.” Spaven and Costello confirmed to Eater that their lawyers had formally responded to AHRG on 26 July.
In the statement, AHRG went on, “our FROG name is very valuable and important to us. We have no choice but to protect it from both deliberate and, as this seems to be, accidental conflicts.”
A spokesperson for the group told Eater that there had been “several questions from diners and industry members asking if the AHRG had opened a bakery,” which they said had prompted it to take action.