A unicorn is supposed to be something you don’t see every day

| May 12, 2017 | Trademark Law

Unicorns are mythical beasts, so they’re not just out there walking around, right? Unfortunately, it seems there is one too many unicorns in New York City these days, and a local coffee shop claims it is Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino.

According to Reuters, the owners of a coffee shop called The End Brooklyn and its owner, Montauk Juice Factory, say they created their signature Unicorn Latte last year and began selling it in December. When the drink’s popularity took off, Montauk filed a trademark application for it. That application was filed on Jan. 20 of this year.

The End’s Unicorn Latte was a big it. The drink has made up around a quarter of the shop’s sales since it was launched.

In April, four months after The End rolled out its bright blue and pink coffee drink, Starbucks introduced its similarly colored, limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino, which it said was “inspired by the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media.”

Reuters didn’t make clear whether the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn drink Starbucks found trending on social media was actually the Unicorn Latte. The Unicorn Frappuccino was a limited offering and is no longer available.

Did Starbucks violate The End’s and Montauk’s trademark by following a social media trend without determining who owned the intellectual property?

The End claims the similar name and appearance of the two drinks created confusion in the marketplace and that Starbucks needs to be held accountable for infringing, diluting and otherwise diminishing” the value of the Unicorn Latte. The End and Montauk are seeking compensation for any losses they incurred and damages in the amount of all the profits Starbucks made from the Unicorn Frappuccino.

According to Reuters, Starbucks believes the lawsuit is without merit.

It’s important to remember that the internet is not a free space, and social media trends may be the result of someone’s hard work. Trademark and copyright infringement are all too common, so it’s crucial to protect your intellectual property rights by vigilance and with the help of a good IP law firm.