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Yomitan sweet potato tart maker challenges rival

Date Posted: 2007-07-27

Sweet potato tarts are big business in Yomitan Village, where bakery shop and cake maker Porshe has been cranking out the boat-shaped sweets for more than 20 years.

Porshe, whose tarts are a popular favorite with tourists and whose shop provides a market to the local farmers who grow the sweet potatoes, is threatening to take a Naha-based company to court on charges it stole his product idea. He’s asking the court to block Nanpo Trading Company from marketing a similar product, charging the company stole both his tart idea, and the unique shape he makes it in.

The sweet potato tart Porshe makes is a boat-shape design, topped with an original creamy sweet potato paste. Porshe claims the copycat tart made by Nanpo Trading Company is hurting his business, which has been around since 1986. More than 10 million of the tasty treats are sold each year, generating ¥852 million of Porshe’s income. That, the tart maker says, is about one-third of the bakery’s total sales.

The competitor, which first began selling its version of the sweet potato tart in 2001, contends its Beni-imo Tart is not a copy of Porshe’s product, and says Porshe’s tart isn’t even an original. Nanpo Trading Company’s spokesman says “It is like a ‘Chinsuko’ cookie, a traditional Okinawan sweet that’s become a popular gift among visiting tourists.” It has, he says, been made in Okinawa homes for centuries, and charges “it is nonsense for any maker to claim it’s their original creation and protected by some kind of copyright that no one else can make.”

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