In a confrontation worthy of David and Goliath, coffee giant Starbucks has lost its appeal in a trademark infringement suit against a mom-and-pop coffee roaster operating out of a barn in rural New Hampshire.
Starbucks had initially filed suit in U.S District Court in New York against Black Bear Micro Roastery of Tuftonboro, NH, in 2001, claiming one of its products, called Charbucks, “infringed, blurred and tarnished” its brand name. After the court ruled against Starbucks, the company filed an appeal in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court handed down its decision last Friday, upholding the earlier decision. While conceding that there were “minimal similarities” between the two names, the court felt that Starbucks did not prove their case according to an article the the Nashua (NH) Telegraph,
“Their sales haven’t been hurt,” said Annie Clark who runs the business along with her husband Jim. “Their growth hasn’t been hurt. We’re just a mom-and-pop little roaster.”
Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said Starbucks took the matter to court only after efforts to settle the matter failed.
“We only filed suit after a prolonged but unsuccessful attempt to enlist Black Bear’s cooperation and to resolve this situation without litigation,” Hutson said.
According to a page on Black Bear’s website, Charbucks is the roastery’s darkest blend. They introduced it in 1997 in response to customer requests. They had been reluctant to do so because they thought it was too dark compared to the other blends they offered.
“It was the ‘Char’ part of the name we felt was particularly direct and blunt,” according to the site. “We even added the tag line ‘You wanted it dark … you got it dark.’”
Technically, Starbucks could take the matter to the Supreme Court, though Hutson would not comment on whether the company would pursue the matter further.