Montauk Juice Factory, co-owners of Brooklyn-based café The End, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Starbucks for its headline-grabbing limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino. Last month, the famous coffee shop caused a huge public reaction when it released the flavor-changing, color-changing concoction, and Montauk Juice Factory wasn’t too pleased about its arrival, due to its Unicorn Latte product. “The size and scope of Starbucks’ product launch was designed so that the Unicorn Frappuccino would eclipse the Unicorn Latte in the market, thereby harming Plaintiffs and confusing their customers,” says Montauk Juice Factory. Its causes of action include dilution, common law trademark infringement, New York trademark infringement and unfair competition, and New York trademark dilution.
According to the complaint, filed on May 3rd in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, The End started selling the Unicorn Latte in December 2016. Surprisingly, it isn’t a coffee drink; it was made of fresh ingredients, including cold-pressed ginger, lemon juice, dates, cashews, and dried ingredients, like maca root, algae and vanilla bean. It was named after the unicorn to evoke the magical traits associated with the mythical creature, and it was given a colorful look because people associate bright or pastel colors with unicorns. The drink received media coverage from the New York Times, Huffington Post, Metro UK and TimeOut. It was also promoted on local New York City television stations. In January of this year, Montauk Juice Factory applied for the trademark “UNICORN LATTE” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Starbucks began selling its Unicorn Frappuccino in April 2017. “At no point prior to developing, marketing, and launching its product did Starbucks approach Plaintiffs for permission to use a name deceptively similar to Unicorn Latte,” says the suit.
The plaintiffs address the repercussions of Starbucks’ release of the Unicorn Frappuccino. Due to Starbucks’ massive marketing campaign its drink “became the dominant ‘Unicorn’ beverage overnight.” Montauk Juice Factory states that there was actual confusion in the public, and people started calling Starbucks’ product a “Unicorn Latte,” while also believing that The End had copied Starbucks. Furthermore, Starbucks’ product was being labeled with #unicornlatte on social media sites, and online publications began calling it the Unicorn Latte. People making fun of Starbucks’ drink, which was picked up by major media outlets as well, say the plaintiffs, worsened the confusion. “While Starbucks’ product has been temporarily taken off the market—it was always intended as a limited-run item—the damage to Plaintiffs’ trademark and business continues and, to an extent, may well be irreparable.”
Montauk Juice Factory is seeking a permanent injunction against Starbuck from using the term “unicorn latte,” Starbucks’ profits, damages, and that Starbuck run an apology and a correction on its website for six months.
The case is Montauk Juice Factory, Inc., The End v. Starbucks Corporation, 1:17-cv-02678, Eastern District of New York.
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