It’s something you don’t see too often these days. A small family owned business has twice prevailed against a huge international brand in court. And this David and Goliath story could have important implications for small businesses everywhere.
On their website, Annie and Jim Clark, owners and operators of The Black Bear Micro Roastery, claim:
“Simply put, the big companies won’t produce the product that we produce, because high quality and high volume just don’t mix.”
But it wasn’t the quality of the New Hampshire couple’s product that the national chain, Starbucks Corporation, took issue with. It was the name given to a particular roast the coffee maker produces.
A peek at the product description for Mister Charbucks Blend, shows the similarity to the brand name of the larger coffee retailer was no accident.
The Clarks’ website describes the coffee as having:
“…the strong “dark” notes that West Coast coffee drinkers like.”
The description together with the name of the blend are clear references to the charred roasting Starbucks has made famous all around the world.
Still, despite a phone survey taken on behalf of Starbucks which seems to indicate at least some confusion among customers, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Black Bear. That court agreed with an earlier ruling that the name of the blend only minimally diluted the bigger cafe chain’s brand and trademarks, reports Reuters.
So what’s the takeaway here?
The court’s decision allows the Clarks to continue selling their Charbucks Blend. But the couple were dragged into court not once but twice. This must have been costly and disruptive for both them and their business.
So unless you have the money, the time or the stomach to put up with protracted litigation, you may want to think twice. Or at least consult an attorney before straying into similar territory with your product or brand.
Starbucks Photo via Shutterstock