Meg Noble Peterson

Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia

STARBUCKS…LIGHTEN UP

Or put some more half and half in your cup and add a little honey. You’re big. You’re rich. You’re powerful.  Come on, fellas, you can afford to leave the little guys alone.

Last December I came upon one of the pettiest acts in my long experience watching the legal shenanigans of super powerful corporations. In fact, it was almost laughable in its absurdity. Daughter Cary and I were staying in Suja, in Himachal PradeshIndia, where the TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village) is located, and had occasion to visit Bir, a small Tibetan refugee community located across the field, where a friend runs a clinic. The town consisted of one main street and a few outlying farms. It was also known as one of the premier sites in the world for paragliding. Being a lover of espresso, I remembered a small coffee shop humorously named BUCKSTARS. I looked up and down the street and finally found it. But the sign only read COFFEE SHOP.

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It was a hole in the wall with an espresso maker, but nobody to make it. I went next door to ask for help. The vendor there went to another store and then across the street, where a clean-cut young man came running and offered to help. He told me he was a former monk from Sikkim and here to help the family that owned the shop. He also was a well-known sand mandala artist. We ended up talking for the rest of the afternoon and, after visiting his studio, I bought one of the lovely mandalas.

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“Where is Buckstars?” I asked “It’s been here for years.” He looked embarrassed, shrugged his shoulders, and wobbled his head from side to side as people so often do in India. “Starbucks came to Mumbai in 2012. They sent us a letter this year from a lawyer and asked us to change the name. Then a lawyer called me and asked how many stores we had in the area. I asked if he had ever been to Bir. No answer. I told him we were a very small town. He asked, again, how many stores we had in the area. He wasn’t listening to me at all and did not understand that we were no threat to Starbucks.”

“If we get twenty customers a day during paragliding, we are lucky. Usually we get two or three. I spend most of my day creating my mandalas.”

Jhangchup then motioned me to sit down and made an espresso that put STARBUCKS to shame.

“Why did you change the name? That must have been a pain,” I said.

“Not really. I found it quite humorous that such a huge company with millions of customers worldwide would take the time to write a long legal letter as well as call me. ” He showed me the letter and a couple of points stood out. I quote:

It appears that you are aware of our client STARBUCKS and that you have infact derived the trademark BUCKSTARS for your cafe by reversing the order of the words STAR and BUCKS and are using the same alongside with ‘S’ in a green concentric circle. Such adoption and use dilutes our client’s common law and statutory rights in their well known name and registered trademarks.

Our client would appreciate if you would amend/change the name of your cafe by not using the word BUCKS either alone or with STAR as part of your name/trademark. Our client is willing to offer a reasonable transition period and pay reasonable costs, etc., etc. and trust that the matter can be resolved amicably.

“What a lot of trouble they went to….If only STARBUCKS had a sense of humor!”

 

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2 Comments

  1. Meg: What a wonderful post. I love that you’ve focused your wise eye on StarBuck’s ridiculous behavior. Imagine if they’d taken that lawyer’s salary and given it to the clinic instead. How much good they could have done.

    Little Old Lady

  2. Ruth Abel

    They are on a par with Disney which does the same thing. What a ridiculous use of resources. They are both trademark trolls!

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