Monday, December 05, 2005

Fuck you, Starbucks.

Seriously. Fuck you.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Coffee shop’s name gets bucked from business
Judge rules that Sambuck’s infringes on the Starbucks trademark; business must change name

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The “Buck’s” has been washed from a sign that used to read “Sambuck’s” in downtown Astoria after the local company lost a lawsuit to coffee giant Starbucks this week.
Kara Hansen — The Daily Astorian
Astoria business owner Sam Buck must change the name of the downtown coffee shop she dubbed after herself, a federal district judge ruled Tuesday.

She also must pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the legal fees incurred by Starbucks Coffee following a legal battle that lasted three and a half years.

Buck doesn’t know the details of the opinion laid out by Judge Ancer Haggerty of the U.S. District Court of Oregon, because she just heard the news Tuesday night, but “the judge said I willfully infringed on (Starbucks’) trademark, that I diluted their trademark,” she said.

The coffee shop’s employees spent Wednesday morning crossing out “Sambuck’s” from the coffee cups, bags and signs at 1154 Commercial St. Then they moved on to the gift certificates and business cards.

Workers have even changed the way they answer the phone, although they haven’t come up with a permanent solution. For now, they just answer with “coffee house,” manager Stephanie Murray said.

“People are going to wonder if they have the right place,” she said.

All traces of the name must be gone by the end of today.

“You’re throwing away thousands of dollars worth of stuff,” owner Buck said, “and you’re left paying thousands of dollars more to have new things made.”

The coffee purveyor opened her shop in October 2000. In March 2002, Starbucks sent her a cease-and-desist letter that called her company’s name confusing and misleading and demanded a change of the title dangerously close to theirs, which came from a character in the famed novel “Moby Dick.”

The Seattle-based coffee giant, which licenses and operates more than 8,000 stores in more than 30 countries, also offered Buck $500 to drop the name, which she refused. Starbucks filed a lawsuit later that year.

Buck has maintained that her company’s title is not a play on the corporate giant’s but an amalgamation of her maiden name, Samantha Buck. She has also said she doubts people have trouble distinguishing her 10-foot-wide shop from

a Starbucks, and the coffee-cup logo stamped in orange on her cups and bags doesn’t reflect the green image used by the international corporation. And there is no Starbucks in downtown Astoria for customers to confuse her store with – the nearest one is about one mile east, inside the Safeway building.

Buck found out around 6 p.m. Tuesday that she lost the battle waged by Starbucks “to protect the value of our trademark, and protect the public from confusion or deception.”

When asked how the case’s outcome might affect Starbucks’ reputation in its dealings with small businesses, company spokeswoman Lara Wyss said the company is “pleased with the court’s decision.”

“While it is always Starbucks’ preference and desire to resolve disputes of this nature informally... we will seek the assistance of the courts to protect our trademark when we are unable to resolve the matter through alternate means,” Wyss said in an e-mailed response. “Under trademark law, companies are required to take action against infringing uses of their trademarks. Even where it may seem playful, this type of misappropriation of a company’s name (and reputation) is both derivative and dilutive of their trademark rights.”

Buck doesn’t know the details of the verdict but said she must cover the corporation’s legal costs, which will be a stretch for her small business.

Although “it will be tighter than tight,” Buck doesn’t think her store will close.

“I’m not a giver-upper,” Buck said, noting she wouldn’t have endured years of litigation otherwise. She said community support has and will continue to keep her business open.

“It keeps your motivation going,” she said. “I think it will be OK.”

And she hopes the community will help to bolster all small businesses in the area.

“We’re standing up for small business because corporate America is squeezing out the small businesses,” Buck said. “It’s real and it’s going to happen if we don’t do something.

“Please support the many small, independently owned coffee houses and drive-through coffee places in Clatsop County. That money circulates in our community 10 times before it leaves, but if you go to a corporate giant, it’s gone.”
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