Having spent my formative years in California, I associate some of my good memories with
In-N-Out Burger. In-N-Out’s Californian roots make my California memories even more special. Now,
suppose I were to be the only one in my social circle to discover a legitimate In-N-Out in Shanghai,
China. Those special memories would rush back to my mind. Shanghai’s aura would become slightly
Californian. My surprise would be coupled with a tint of amusement.
If this were to happen, I would be remiss not to consider the role of intellectual property
lawyers. Without them, there would have been unaccounted insecurities that could lead others to infringe on In-N-Out’s trade secrets. Without these securities, In-N-Out would have not successfully expanded.
Without the expansion, an iconic burger would not have made it to Shanghai’s streets. No cuisine
exchange, and no cultural collision, would have occurred.
Today, you can find your favorite restaurants across the globe, where disparate worlds seem to
encounter each other more often than not through cultural collisions. I want to use my law degree to
enable anyone to navigate today’s era of cultural collisions. I want to be a lawyer in order to enable
others to experience the cultural collisions I have lived through. Let me take you to Urumqi, the capital
of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in July, 2016.
Following a thirty-two hour train ride from Beijing, I reached Heping Road, a bustling artery in
Urumqi. Turkic beats emanating from car radios and Chinese newscasts blaring from households
surrounded my walk through the city streets. Chinese customers bought Uyghur naan bread while
Uyghur shoppers sniffed Chinese incense. This was a land of cultural collisions.
While browsing through the windows of a tailor shop, something caught my eye. It was a
yellow-orange logo with a cartoon chicken tipping its top hat and wearing a bowtie. “You have got to
be kidding me,” I thought to myself. It was an AlBaik restaurant. My eyes grew. I gaped.
AlBaik is a Saudi Arabian chicken restaurant with beloved signature sauces and spices. It is
arguably the most popular restaurant in the Kingdom. Despite its strong reputation, Saudi Arabia only
has 68 AlBaik locations, all of which are only in the country’s Western Hejaz Region. In fact, the Saudi
royal family prohibits AlBaik from expanding to Eastern Saudi Arabia, where its princes fear that AlBaik
would outcompete their KFC and Burger King franchises.
As I entered Urumqi’s AlBaik, I entered a part of home. The appearance of the orange-red
secret sauce, the smell of the Saudi spices, and even the employee uniforms were uncannily similar to
what I find in Saudi Arabia. After I ordered my favorite sandwich, the Big Baik, I reminisced about my
special AlBaik moments. They include lunches with baseball teammates, my AlBaik meals with my first
crush, and a hallmark meal following my first pilgrimage to Mecca. Once I got my Big Baik, I enjoyed
the most surreal lunch of my life.
AlBaik’s attorneys did what the make-believe In-N-Out lawyers did. Through intellectual
property, they were able to devise the successful expansion of AlBaik across the silk road to Urumqi, a
city most of my Saudi friends have never heard of. These lawyers crossed cultural boundaries to build a
bridge of beautiful cultural collisions through unanticipated cuisine exchanges.