Tulsa: April 2006 Archives

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.

As someone who was threatened with an intellectual property lawsuit, I can empathize with Brian Franklin, proprietor of Tulsa's DoubleShot Coffee Company:

I sense there has been some confusion. At least, that's what the letter says that I received from Starbucks' attorneys.

It's true. I received a letter last week informing me that I am infringing on a trademark that Starbucks has had since 2001, "Starbuck's Doubleshot." The lawyers advised me to cease using the DoubleShot Coffee Company name, to shut down my website (http://www.DoubleShotCoffee.com), and to destroy everything I have which bears the "DoubleShot" name. Come read the letter yourself-- it's framed and hanging on the wall, over the garbage can.

At first I frowned, then I smiled, then I laughed, then I experienced a little anger and fear, and then I went back to vengeance and irritable laughter. As you know, I don't take kindly to people telling me what to do. After briefly discussing the matter with my lawyer, and a gaggle of other lawyers who regularly patronize DoubleShot (my DoubleShot, not the can at the gas station), I don't think Starbucks has a leg to stand on. Doubleshot is a generic industry term for two shots of espresso. They have no exclusive rights to it. But they will try to scare me and lawyer me out of business if we give them the opportunity.

So today, as a legal clarification, I would like everyone to know that we are not Starbuck's Doubleshot. If we tricked you into coming in here, thinking you could get a can of Starbuck's DoubleShot here, please let me know.

And if you thought that $2 Tuesday was a sale on Starbuck's Doubleshot, I vehemently apologize for the confusion and ask you to please not come in here anymore because stupid people annoy me.

On the other hand, if you are brilliant enough to seek out a pound of fresh-roasted DoubleShot coffee, you will be rewarded today. Come in anytime today for $2 Tuesday, and receive a $2 discount on every pound of oh-so-tasty-coffee you purchase.

We don't have any cans of Starbuck's Doubleshot here, but we do have the freshest coffee on the planet!

Please tell as many people as you can about this outrageous Starbucks chicanery. We figure that the more publicity and public indignation we stir up, the better chance we will have at standing up against this evil corporate empire.

Find out more information about this on the latest episode of AA Cafe (and learn how to get a 15% discount on web orders):
http://www.DoubleShotCoffee.com/aacafe or on iTunes (search for "AA Cafe" in the music store).

I'd be interested to know what Ron Coleman, IP attorney and blawger extraordinaire, thinks about this. Actually, based on this recent item about Marvel and DC Comics trying to trademark the word "super-hero," I can guess. (As general counsel for the Media Bloggers Association, Ron responded on my behalf to the Tulsa World's legal threats.)

I'd think the Swinging Medallions would have a better infringement claim than Starbucks.

If you're a blogger, help spread the word about Starbucks' bullying. If you're a coffee drinker, stop by DoubleShot at 18th and Boston and buy a cup of great coffee to show your support. And stay tuned to DoubleShot's brand new blog for updates on the situation.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa category from April 2006.

Tulsa: February 2006 is the previous archive.

Tulsa: May 2006 is the next archive.

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