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<nettime> Starbucks sues small Native coffeshop for trademark infringmen
Michael Weisman on Tue, 1 Jul 2003 12:11:33 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Starbucks sues small Native coffeshop for trademark infringment

Posted to nettime by Mike Weisman, Seattle WA

for more information go to www.haidabuckscafe.com


Article - Vancouver Sun - HaidaBucks - FYI
Byline: Scott Simpson
Outlet: Vancouver Sun
Headline: Starbucks demands HaidaBucks change
Page: D1 / Front
Date: Wednesday 16 April 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun

A modest restaurant in remote Haida Gwaii is reeling under the threat of a
major lawsuit after retail coffee giant Starbucks decided that the
eatery's aboriginal-linked name poses a threat to its plan to dominate the
international java market.

HaidaBucks Cafe in Masset, a Queen Charlottes village with a population of
700, was warned last month by a Vancouver law firm acting for Starbucks
that it must change its name or wind up in court, and was advised Tuesday
that a formal notice of litigation is in the mail.

A Starbucks representative in Seattle confirmed the corporation's actions,
asserting that it seeks to "protect the public from confusion and

HaidaBucks CO-owner Darin Swanson said Tuesday he's angry about the
corporation's behavior, given its efforts to style its public image around
social and environmental responsibility.

A letter to HaidaBucks from Vancouver law firm Bull, Housser and Tupper on
behalf of Starbucks says the word Haida is acceptable but alleges that
Bucks "results in a clear association with our client's trademark."

Swanson said the cafe's name is derived from the owners' heritage. "That
was nice of them to let us use the word Haida," said Swanson, who along
with one of the other owners is a member of the Haida First Nation. "Bucks
refers to young men in the culture of First Nations. We're Haida bucks.
Originally there were four Haida guys that owned the place, so we decided
to call ourselves HaidaBucks. It has nothing to do with Starbucks.

"We're in our mid-30s. When we were younger, under 21, we had a local
basketball team called the Bucks." Swanson said he cannot fathom how
Starbucks would regard his cafe as a threat -- unless it's because the
brand of coffee he serves his customers is Seattle's Best, a Starbucks

Swanson said he's not comfortable with the idea of backing down in the
face of the corporation's threats, but he's worried about the money that
it could cost to hang on to it.

"The only reason I would change the name is that I couldn't afford to
fight them. "We don't have money to stack up against those guys, that's
for sure. We are going to have to be creative, maybe do some fund raising
for a legal defense fund if it goes that far."

The cafe opened four years ago, and closes down in the winter when bitter
weather slows business to a crawl. It averages about 60 to 70 customers a
day and supports five full-time and two part-time employees. It has been
closed since January and is scheduled to reopen by this weekend following
some renovations by Swanson, who works full time as a local building

He said the cafe pays for itself, supports the employees, but makes no
money for the owners. "I don't want to bow down to these guys. The word
'bucks' is theirs? They own that word? I don't think so, but that's
basically what they're saying."

Starbucks derives its name from a character in the Herman Melville novel
Moby Dick, which has long since passed into the public domain.

A March 4, 2003 letter from Bull, Housser and Tupper alleges that the name
HaidaBucks is a violation of Canadian trademark laws and demands that the
owners accede to Starbucks' wishes and change it within two weeks.

It says Starbucks' Canadian trademark registrations "give our client the
exclusive right to prevent use of its trademark or a confusing trademark
anywhere in Canada."

A Starbucks spokesperson in Seattle said the company has no choice but to
"police" perceived violations of its trademark.

"On March 4, Starbucks Coffee Company sent a cease-and-desist letter to
HaidaBucks requesting that it stop the use of a confusing variation of the
Starbucks name and trademark," media relations program manager Lara Wyss
said in a written statement.

"Trademark law does not permit us to be selective in protecting our
rights; anytime there is infringement or dilution, we must 'police' our
mark, regardless of the infringer's size. We actually risk damaging and
possibly losing our trademark rights if we fail to do so.

"It is Starbucks preference and desire to resolve disputes of this nature
informally and amicably whenever possible. However, we will take legal
steps to protect the value of our trademark, and protect the public from
confusion and deception, when we are unable to resolve a matter through
alternate means."

The Seattle-based company's Web site is loaded with self-congratulatory
news proclaiming Starbucks' success at becoming "an integral part of
customers' everyday lives," its "support for local communities," and a
"fair trade" program that purports to raise the quality of life for the
Third World farmers who grow its beans.

"As a global company and leader of the specialty coffee industry, it is
our responsibility to conduct our business in ways that produce social,
environmental and economic benefits to the communities where we operate,"
Starbucks president/CEO Orin Smith said in a March 25, 2003 release. "We
have a continued commitment to fulfilll this mission while maintaining our
fiscal goals."

please respond to:

Mike Weisman
popeye {AT} speakeasy.org

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