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Starbucks and a coffee shop lock horns over unicorn drinks

Why is Starbucks being taken to court for its Unicorn Frappuccino?

The lawsuit over Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino will go to court this month, according the Australian. The End, a tiny coffee shop New York, will see Starbucks in court on July 25th because they claim that the Starbucks beverage is too similar to their drink known as Unicorn Latte.

Discover the grounds on which the small coffee shop is suing Starbucks for trademark infringement and how Alder IP can help you defend your brand.

The trademark battle over unicorn-themed drinks

The End's parent company, Montauk Juice Factory Inc., is suing Starbucks Corporation for $US 10 million in damages because they claim that the coffee giant's Unicorn Frappuccino infringed on "their distinctive and famous trademark."

The End had been selling their unicorn-themed, blended fruit juice drink since December 2016. The whimsical beverage whipped up a lot of media attention from big names such as the New York Times, NBC NY and the Huffington Post, according to Lexology. The drink became so popular that it allegedly made up 25 per cent of its revenue at the end of January, Lexology reports.

In January, The End filed an application to register its Unicorn Latte with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. However, The End said that after Starbucks' drink appeared on the market, their beverage "has suffered, and continues to suffer, brand dilution and tarnishment."

The company says that people started tagging the Frappuccino with #unicornlatte on Instagram and media outlets even confused the names of the drinks, the Australian reports.

The End is using "the doctrine of reverse confusion"

The End is claiming that, because customer could potentially confuse the two brands, they can sue on the grounds of reverse confusion. 

People started tagging the Frappuccino with #unicornlatte and media outlets even confused the drinks.

Reverse confusion is when a junior user (the second or subsequent user of a mark who may or may not have rights in the mark) enters the market with a confusingly similar mark and minimises the brand recognition of senior company (the first entity to adopt and use the mark anywhere in the United States.)

Similarly, in Australia, there could be trademark infringement if a company uses a similar trademark that could "reasonably be expected to cause deception or confusion in the mind of the relevant buying public," according to IP Australia.

This sort of case demonstrates the need for trademarks in a marketplace where confusion is possible. If you want help with your trademark, contact Alder IP. Our specialised trademark lawyers will assist you in creating a strong trademark application that protects your product or service.