Starbucks has filed a lawsuit against the owner of a Bangkok coffee stall.

Stall owner Damrong Maslae said his Starbung logo was created by a design-savvy friend, and not inspired by Starbucks at all.

Starbung logo
Photo by Aroon Thaewchatturat

I see.

More on The Guardian (thanks Cat).

Related: Starbucks logo evolution.

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October 21, 2013


These are parodies, and amusing too.

If I were Starbucks, I’d leave them alone and use them as part of a strategic marketing campaign which makes Starbucks seem laid back and friendly rather than a corporate, lawyer heavy brand that has taken over our high streets with overpriced beverages and generic cookie cutter stores. There must surely be more value in this sort of approach than a letter from a lawyer.

Starbucks logo has changed now anyway.

Anyone getting into a fight with someone weaker than they are comes off as a bully, whatever the reason.

Reading through the article, Starbucks did first ask them to cease and desist, before suing, and I would say rightfully so: the similarities are simply too many to be believably argued as coincidence, and Starbucks too big.

That said, Starbucks should avoid fighting Mr. Maslae, as doing so risks both detriment to their image and will grant more PR benefits for Mr. Maslae, as tends to happen in these David vs. Goliath cases.

This isn’t a David vs. Goliath situation because Starbucks doesn’t have anything to lose by fighting this fight. Parody mocks something cultural about the subject being copied. These coffee houses/stands are not mocking Starbucks for sake of literary criticism but instead profiting off the logo for which Starbucks owns the design. Humor is not always parody, and parody is not always humorous.

Worst case scenario: Starbucks ticks off a few fans who were frequenting those venues. Starbucks loses zero sales, because those customers were not getting their coffee from Starbucks anyway. Maybe a few more people get ticked off and boycott on principle… still negligible loss since someone upset over something as mundane as a blatant trademark violation probably was already ticked off at Starbucks for any number of other reasons. Perhaps Mr. Maslae gets more customers on the Barbara Streisand effect — then good for him. He’ll benefit as an entrepreneur, and Starbucks retains exclusive use of their logo. It’s a win-win situation.

Comparatively, imagine if Starbucks were dragged to court because someone got sick at one of these coffee stops, thinking that they got sick at a Starbucks. While they might be able to dismiss it, it’s still going to cost them a small fortune in legal fees even just to respond.

Then you run into issue with trademark law — failure to police your own trademark results in dilution of the mark. A diluted mark can be lost to the public domain. Starbucks therefore has to enforce its own rights to the mark or risk losing it in various jurisdictions.

The thing is Starbucks had warned him to stop usiing the logo. But he gave the answer that if Starbucks wanted him to quit using the logo, they needed to pay him (he said buying it back, actually) for 3M baht.

That made Starbucks sue him back.

At first I didn’t quite agree with a big brand suing a local, but after I heard what he said to the company I changed my mind, even though I’m Thai.

@ Wade Sims. Agreed! 100%

I live just south of Seattle and you literally cannot turn your head without gazing upon this beautiful mermaid. A parody is one thing if it is completely goofy, but if they are profiting off of the “same” product, well, it’s not much of a parody then, is it? Here’s one you’ll find in the back window of cars around here…

Not sure what Starbucks thinks about this one…

While I think IP law is kinda BS, this is clearly a parody and is therefore protected by current IP law. The only way Starbucks would win this case is because of its gigantic legal resource arsenal.

“Stall owner Damrong Maslae said his Starbung logo was created by a design-savvy friend, and not inspired by Starbucks at all.”

So @Aaron, while I’d love to believe this to be a parody, reading the owners own statement makes it clear that he does not think it is. Therefore, it’s profiteering. And while I’m no fan of Starbucks, it’s not like Damrong wasn’t warned – Holy shit! His name, Damn-wrong, becomes a parody in and of itself given the situation . . . maybe he knows EXACTLY what he’s doing! ;)

The Sattar Buksh logo is just hilarious. But I understand them, they want a piece of the pie. Although it’s wrong to copy other graphics and try to hide it by changing small things.

Too bad the coffee-shop owner showed a smug and arrogant attitude towards Starbucks, thus forcing their corporate bullshit egos to sue.

It’s hilarious and sad at the same time.

It’s sad because the brand owners just don’t get it. And in a capitalist existence, in the dog-eat-dog world, they never will. A rip-off will be judged harshly, no matter what, in this context. What they don’t understand is that a logo-theft is actually a compliment. The (usually) small company that steals a logo is just trying to profit from the success of the brand, thus acknowledging the success of the brand. A smart attitude (that we probably will not see during this decade(s) is a CSR-attitude where major brands actually support (financially, with know-how, proper brand-setup etc.) little players who copy them. Create a win-win relationship and find out that a positive helpful attitude will go viral like this did, and will only have benefits for the brand. Stupid, animal instincts still prevail, in short. :)

Progressive human behavior? Right. Wishful thinking.

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