Intellectual Property Law

Starbucks clone claims to be a parody; will mocked coffee chain laugh or call its lawyers?

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Observers in Southern California are scratching their heads over a clone of a popular coffee cafe that has seemingly popped up out of nowhere.

Calling itself “Dumb Starbucks”on a logo that otherwise appears identical to the green, white and black design made famous by the real Starbucks, the look-alike upstart in the upscale Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles doesn’t pretend to offer the full menu of the international coffee chain. However, it has been doing a brisk business since Friday giving away menu items such as “dumb brewed coffee” and “dumb iced coffee” in “Dumb Starbucks”-branded paper cups featuring the well-known green mermaid, the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) reports. The shop also lacks another standard feature of most city restaurants: A business license displayed in the window, Southern California Public Radio notes.

It isn’t clear whether the new establishment is a joke or a marketing ploy. But apparently anticipating that the public would question how it could expect to operate for long without attracting negative attention from lawyers for the real Starbucks, the upstart explains its position on a printed flyer, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons, Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art,” the flyer states. “So, in the eyes of the law, our ‘coffee shop’ is actually an art gallery and the ‘coffee’ you’re buying is actually the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!”

A Forbes post provides an image of the actual document.

A representative of Starbucks told KABC the company is aware of the Los Feliz coffee cafe and is looking into the situation.

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