DoubleShot heard 'round the world

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Starbucks' frivolous claim of trademark infringement against Tulsa's DoubleShot Coffee Company is getting attention around the blogosphere.

See-Dubya, blogging at Patterico's Pontifications:

I bring this up both to tweak Starbucks for being humorless pronks and also to point out that lawyers sometimes sit around with nothing to do and decide to make trouble to prove that they’re worth the salaries they pull down. With intellectual property stuff like this, they have a semi-legitimate concern that they could lose the exclusive rights to their property if they don’t enforce it (this is assuming that they actually owned it in the first place, which in this case I’m pretty sure they didn’t.) But in any big company, Legal ought to always sit down with Marketing and explain exactly what they’re going to do and why they want to do it. Hopefully some of the Creative types could have explained to them that their suit was counterproductive and would tend to make the Corporation look like bullies, and just invite more infringement along with the ridicule.

At Overlawyered:

A Tulsa, Oklahoma, coffeeshop, Doubleshot Coffee, however, has received a scary-lawyer letter from Starbucks, claiming that Starbucks has an exclusive right to use the term "double shot" in relation to coffee.

I like the phrase "scary-lawyer letter."

At blogcritics:

Wal-Mart started as a small mom and pop; Kmart and Starbucks did, too.

But when these companies grow and start to use their strength to crush competition and threaten the very institution of small business that drives this country, then something has to be done.

Stores like Wal-Mart threaten small business through their ultra-low prices and selection, but Starbucks is a great example of a true corporate bully. The way many people view Starbucks as a bully is through it's use of litigation or threat of litigation against its competition....

Fortunately for Star Bock, HaidaBucks, and Charbucks, Starbucks did not win. But that did not stop them from incurring legal fees that nearly bankrupted them.

A small privately owned company with half a dozen employees does not have the money that a company like Starbucks has at its disposal for legal and court costs. Sometimes just the threat of a lawsuit can wield results.

From Begging to Differ:

Common sense dictates Starbucks should not be able to monopolize use of a name that is commonly used in an industry to describe a product or service. That would sort of defeat the purpose of trademark law. Starbucks should not be able to do that. But what they can do is throw their legal firepower and resources at smaller regional shops to drain the resources of the smaller shops. That's exactly what they are doing.

In this instance I’m not sure how successful Starbucks’s efforts have been. It seems (from looking at DoubleShot’s blog) that DoubleShot is enjoying the attention generated by this dispute. Especially with a company like Starbucks, alternatives are likely to be started by and patronized by people with anti chain (and “anti corporate”) streaks. Not the type of people likely to back down. Maybe even the type of people who come up with creative ways to fight the battle.

From Stay Free! Daily, the blog of a Brooklyn-based magazine:

This isn't the first time Starbucks has tried to trademark a common phrase and bully smaller members of the industry out of using it. For example, Starbucks didn't invent Christmas but they attempted to stop the monks of the All-Merciful Savior Monastery from selling a Christmas blend of their Monastery Blend Coffee. I'm glad to see that the DoubleShot folks intend to fight back; I hope it doesn't cost them too much money.

Meanwhile, our doughty entrepreneur has some serious thinking to do:

Time is drawing short and some critical decisions need to be made. Many people have recommended that I just submit to Starbucks and change the name of my business. They have too much money and could squeeze me out of business, right? Maybe I'm an idealist, but in my mind this isn't just about a little café in Tulsa Oklahoma. This is about what is right and wrong. This is about a corporation trying to live above the rules, and lay claim to words that have been in the coffee industry for a century. I'm not the kind of guy to lay down and let the schoolyard bully push me around.

The response to the attorneys will happen this week. Should I press the issue and take a chance of being sued? If I am sued, where will I get the money for a lawyer? Will someone trustworthy of this case work pro bono? If I cannot find a lawyer, can I stand up for myself in court? I know I am right; and I know that I can clearly state the case. If I must have a lawyer for a lawsuit and do not have one, should I play it safe and negotiate backward? There is much to consider.

4 Comments

Bobby Author Profile Page said:

I happy to see that DoubleShot Coffee Co. and Brian are getting some "play" on this. I was there today and talked with him a bit and had a Mocha which was great as per usual!

Thanks for getting the word out!

In a similar vein, Marvel Comics is attempting to trademark the term "superhero"

I soon expect the day when we won't even be allowed to talk without paying for every word we utter.

susan said:

A person I knew had a child that had a bad habit of biting preschool classmates and other annoying things that would make the little kids cry.

I taught the child myself in a different classroom setting, but I knew how to control the child. No problems. When you are experienced, you should know how to handle these things. I have taught and been a chaperone to many children -- little ones through high school trips. Sometimes very intelligent children need a completely type of teaching method.

The preschool ( a very good one ) warned if the child was a problem again they could not allow the child to return and the child's parents would lose money they paid. The preschool had rules and the parents sign a form saying they agree to the rules. There was almost $200 the parents were going to lose so they had an attorney write a "scary lawyer letter" demanding the $200. The attorney, in reality, was not representing the company he actually worked for. However, it did work, and the preschool returned the $200.

Lawyers are famous for playing mind games -- to them it's fun.

I'm sure the folks at Starbucks will be pleased to know that until two minutes ago, I was unaware of DoubleShot's existence ... but now that I know it's there, I will certainly be going out of my way to patronize it, and I will certainly be going out of my way to snub Starbucks.

Greed always backfires. "Instant karma's gonna get you," as John Lennon says.

Example: An individual once attempted to extort money from mom-and-pop business owners on my beloved Mother Road by claiming he owned the rights to the name Route 66 in this country (a bald-faced lie -- while it's been trademarked in Europe, you can't own a federal highway designation in the United States, because it's in the public domain). Nobody paid the guy, but he did find himself ostracized by the entire Route 66 community. Gossip travels fast in a small town, and 66 is basically a 2,448-mile-long small town whose inhabitants have very little patience with dishonesty or greed.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 13, 2006 10:38 PM.

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