A new Hampshire microroastery that sells a dark coffee blend called "Charbucks" hasn't harmed coffee giant Starbucks, a federal judge ruled...
MANCHESTER, N.H. — A New Hampshire microroastery that sells a dark coffee blend called “Charbucks” hasn’t harmed coffee giant Starbucks, a federal judge ruled.
Seattle-based Starbucks failed to prove its image was tarnished by the Charbucks brand, U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain in New York wrote last week.
She said that in adopting the name, the Tuftonboro-based Black Bear Micro Roastery intended to take advantage of the similarity to the Starbucks name. But, she ruled, the evidence did not support an inference it was done to mislead consumers about a connection between the two.
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Starbucks, which sued the company in 2001, claiming trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of the Starbucks trademark, 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.
Jim Clark, owner of Black Bear, said he chose the Charbucks name to warn customers that his new roast was very dark. His company has used the name in incarnations that included “Charbucks Blend” 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 awhile, simply because of lack of interest.”
Swain wrote that the packaging of Clark’s product, offered by mail order and in Clark’s coffee shop, “is different in imagery, color and format from Starbucks logo and signage.”
There was no evidence Clark’s 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 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.
Starbucks said in a prepared statement Wednesday that it filed the lawsuit after “a prolonged, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt” to resolve the matter without litigation. The company said it is reviewing the court’s opinion.
“Under trademark law, we are required to take action against infringing uses of our trademarks; we risk damaging our trademark rights if we fail to do so,” the statement said. “Even where it may seem playful, this type of misappropriation of our name and reputation is both derivative and dilutive of our trademark rights.”
Starbucks’ comments were reported by Seattle Times reporter Monica Soto Ouchi.
Rich Chantico to be taken off menu
Starbucks is pulling Chantico from its menu next month, only a year after it enthusiastically launched the calorie-laden chocolate drink.
Spokeswoman Audrey Lincoff said the company will start selling two new chocolate drinks in mid-February but would not provide any further details Wednesday.
Some have complained that Chantico — with 390 calories per 6 oz. serving, 190 of them from fat — is so rich it almost tastes like a melted chocolate bar. Lincoff said she hasn’t heard such complaints and insists it’s attracted a loyal following in many markets.
Dan Geiman, a Seattle-based McAdams Wright Ragen analyst who follows Starbucks, said it clearly hasn’t lived up to the company’s expectations. He characterized Chantico as a rare flop for a company that usually does a good job predicting what its customers will like.
The Associated Press