After a tedious 12-year trial, coffee empire Starbucks lost its case against a small, family-owned New Hampshire-based coffee roaster. The issue? The use of the name “Charbucks.”
Black Bear Micro Roastery sells coffee labeled “Mr. Charbucks,” “Charbucks Blend,” and “Mister Charbucks,” which doesn’t go over too well with the Seattle coffee giant. However, according to Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier, who ruled in a family appeals court, the prosecution failed to prove that customers would be confused through a blurring of the brand.
Litigation began in 2001, when the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that roastery could continue to sell its Charbucks coffee. Then in 2011, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled in favor of the small company again, stating that Charbucks was only weakly similar to the Starbucks brand name.
And now recently, the ruling is upheld again.
The coffee company isn’t the first to react to another company that resembles its name; in fact, many retailers go through litigation when they believe another brand steps on its toes, for fear they will lose profit.
A large portion of Starbucks’ argument that Charbucks was infringing on its name comes from a phone survey, in which 600 people polled allegedly agreed that “Charbucks” brought “Starbucks” to mind, but according to the latest ruling, Starbucks will just have to deal.
However, many Starbucks drinkers have long referred to the company as “Charbucks,” because they feel it has a burnt taste to it, which could be another reason why Starbucks isn’t a fan of the name.
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Starbucks began selling its signature brews in 1971, out of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It has now become the world’s largest coffee chain, with more than 14.8 billion in annual revenue.
Black Bear Micro Roastery began selling its “Charbucks Blend” in 1997 out of Tuftonboro, New Hampshire.
Image via Wikimedia Commons