A New York Coffee Shop Sues Starbucks for Alleged Trade Mark Infringement

The unicorn trend has taken the world by storm. The latest industry to capitalise on this growing trend is perhaps surprisingly the world of coffee’s.

In April, the global coffee chain Starbucks introduced its customers to the limited-edition Unicorn Frappuccino. This interesting and brightly coloured beverage caused quite a stir on social media and now it appears Starbucks may be in hot water with New York based coffee shop- The End Brooklyn (‘the coffee shop’) and its owner Montauk Juice Factory.

The hipster coffee shop claims that Starbucks copied its idea for the bright and colourful drink. Further the owners of the coffee shop claim that its customers assumed they were the ones selling a “copy-cat or knockoff”.

The coffee shop has now filed a $10 million federal trademark infringement lawsuit against Starbucks over the popular beverage. According to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New York, the coffee shop claims that it created a bright pink and blue beverage called the Unicorn Latte- which it began selling in December. This is four months before Starbucks introduced its Unicorn Frappuccino.

The Unicorn Latte was a success and its popularity soared- this prompted the coffee shop to file a trademark application for it on 20 January 2017- which is still pending. The suit alleges that the popularity was such that the beverage accounted for around a quarter of the shop’s sales since its launch.

The suit alleges that the similar names and the similar appearance of the drinks, creates customer confusion within the market. The suit further states: by creating and marketing such a similar product, Starbucks should be “held accountable for infringing, diluting and otherwise diminishing the plaintiffs’ intellectual property value”.

The suit states “the size and scope of Starbucks’ product launch was designed so that the Unicorn Frappuccino would eclipse the Unicorn Latte in the market, thereby harming [The End] and confusing their customers. Starbucks’ products began appearing on social media labelled with the hashtag #unicornlatte online publications began referring to Starbucks’ products as Unicorn Lattes and the [The End’s] Unicorn Latte- while still occasionally mentioned- was reduced to an ‘also ran’ anecdote to Starbuck’s Unicorn Frappuccino”.

The suit continues “Neither drink contains coffee. The End’s version is made from cold pressed ginger, lemon juice, dates, cashews, blended with additional healthy dried ingredients such as maca root, blue-green algae, and vanilla, whilst on the other hand Starbucks’ version is “a concoction of milk, artificial sweeteners, color additives, and pinches of fruit juice concentrate for the flavour”.

Even though Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino was a limited-edition product that is no longer available. The coffee shop alleges that the damage has very much been done. The suit alleges “Starbucks’ conduct has diluted the distinctive quality of [The End’s] famous Unicorn Latte mark and has and is likely to confuse consumers into believing that that the Starbucks’ products are affiliated with, or are otherwise endorsed or approved by [The End], and vice-versa.

The coffee shop and its owner are seeking all profits that Starbucks made from sales of its Unicorn Frappuccino and for any losses incurred. Further the coffee shop also wants a public apology.

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges has responded by stating that Starbucks believes the claims made in the lawsuit are without merit. In an email, Starbucks stated the following: “The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino blended beverage was inspired by the fun, spirited and colourful Unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media”, it further added that the beverage was offered for a limited period in April and is no longer available.


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