Skip to comments.Granite State coffee roaster fends off Starbucks lawsuit
Posted on 12/30/2005 6:37:02 AM PST by Cagey
Manchester Center Tuftonboro coffee roaster Jim Clark stood his ground against coffee giant Starbucks and won.
Starbucks sued Clarks Black Bear Micro Roastery in U.S. District Court in New York, alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of the Starbucks trademark because the New Hampshire man marketed a dark-roasted coffee blend called Charbucks.
But a U.S. District Court judge ruled against Starbucks last week, saying the company failed to prove its image was tarnished by the Charbucks brand.
Its the latest in a legal fight that caused Clark to learn the intricacies of copyright law and his companys insurance contract, as hes gone up against a corporate empire with deep pockets.
I had vicious arguments with my own attorneys right from day one, Clark said. When I said I wanted this to go to trial, they laughed in my face.
U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain wrote that in adopting the name, Black Bear intended to take advantage of the similarity to the Starbucks name and the perception the West Coast-based company sells a dark roast of Joe.
But the evidence did not support an inference it was done to mislead consumers about a connection between the two, Swain ruled.
Starbucks also failed to demonstrate that a Charbucks brand is likely to hurt the perception of Starbucks goods in the eyes of the public, she said.
Clark said he chose Charbucks to warn customers that a new roast was dark, dark, dark. The company has used the name in incarnations that included Charbucks Blend, Mister Charbucks and Mr. Charbucks.
I said, I want to name it something that will grab the average customer and stop them dead in their tracks, Clark said from his Portsmouth coffee shop, The Den. We thought the product would be discontinued after a while, simply because of lack of interest.
Starbucks Seattle-based public affairs office did not return a phone call yesterday.
Starbucks has vowed to appeal the judges ruling, Clark said, but insurance will not cover his further legal costs. He said hes hoping to find an attorney who will work pro bono on a case that could reach the Supreme Court.
Is there any realistic possibility that we will harm them, given our size? Clark said. Common sense tells you we are not hurting Starbucks. We cant, were too small.
First contacted by Starbucks in 1997, he said he twice thought he had reached a settlement, only to have it fall through.
These people, the corporations, have a lot of money and all they have to do is go to the clerks office and pay the fee and haul you into court, Clark said.
Swain wrote that the packaging of Clarks product, offered by mail order and in The Den, is different in imagery, color and format from Starbucks logo and signage. There was no evidence Clarks company advertises by radio or uses Charbucks as a stand-alone word in promoting or offering its product, she said.
Starbucks packaging includes a circular logo containing a depiction of a mermaid. Charbucks packaging identifies it as a product of Black Bear Micro Roastery by color, words and a picture of a man walking, Swain said.
She labeled as a red herring a Starbucks argument that confusion between the two companies was more likely because Black Bear sells its brand on the Internet. The company had cited a telephone survey that found 79 percent of people who were familiar with Starbucks had made a purchase from a Web site.
As the winner, shouldn't this guy be able to ask for court costs and attorney fees?
If the case had been in the UK, yes.
Only if the copyright statutes of the US Code provide for attorney fees to the loser and I don't believe it does. He did get a ton of free publicity for his coffe though.
I have very strong coffee which still tasted good but IMO they over roast the beans.
I don't know why everyone bashes Starbuck's. Is it because of the monopoly on other coffee's. I am stationed in Italy and Korea before that and love Starbucks. We have it on military bases. I get their Vanilla Frapocchino. It is not bad. But please give me some background on this war with Starbucks. It is environmentally friendly but really from what I have seen only they want people to recycle. That is not too much to ask, is it? It is the same with Walmart - everyone bashes them too. I just don't get it, but have not been in the states for 4 years so I may just be out of the loop.
Sorry I miss understood.
Happy New Year!!!!!!
Thanks for getting me to look. Title 17, Chapter 5, §505 gives attorney fees and costs at the court's discretion. Either this guy didn't ask, or the court denied it.
Same to you and a safe one my Freeper friend.
I agree. I think it tastes like it's first burnt, and then strained through a weightlifter's crack. I got a gift card last year, tried 4 different types over four different visits, and then gave the remainder of the card to the kid behind the register.
Their foo-foo coffee drinks aren't bad, and I mentioned it to the kid behind the counter. I don't even think he realized how he validated my opinion.
What he told me was: "Well, those drinks are made from the beans, not the grounds"
napscoordinator, could that be why you think it's so good? What do you get when you're there? Or could it be that you're comparing it with Italian coffee, which is EXTREMELY strong?
This is the kind of case that can stir a lot of passions. I'm glad Mr. Clark managed to grind out a win, but he shouldn't try to milk this for the publicity. He could have gotten creamed.
I re-read your post. You are ordering the Vanilla Frappacino, which is made from the espresso beans.
You would probably change your mind about their great flavor if you ordered some plain coffee (from grounds).
Now that's funny! Happy New Year.
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