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In a more caffeinated retelling of the David and Goliath story, Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks Corp. is being sued in US court by a small Brooklyn coffee shop, for allegedly appropriating the name “Unicorn Frappuccino” for use in connection with its colourful and limited-edition drink.


Montauk Juice Factory, which owns and operates “The End” coffee shop in Brooklyn, alleges that it has been selling its “Unicorn Latte” since December and filed a US trademark application soon thereafter, which as of the date of writing is still pending at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The two companies’ drinks are similar in the sense that both are a colourful, cold drink that does not actually contain coffee. The matter is further complicated by the fact that the term “Frappuccino” is a registered trademark owned by Starbucks as well.

The question that Montauk will have to successfully answer in court is: Is Starbucks’ name “Unicorn Frappuccino” confusingly similar to its own “Unicorn Latte” trademark?

Whether this matter is extensively litigated remains to be seen. However, entrepreneurs and small business owners would do well to heed at least one aspect of Montauk’s tactics – if you are going up against a giant in your field, it certainly helps to have your trademark application filed first!

Stay tuned to this space for further details.

For more information about trademarks, contact our Intellectual Property Group.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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