It was the “dumbest” Starbucks parody ever. On Monday, a Los Angeles store called "Dumb Starbucks" was shut down by the local Health Department, not long after comedian Nathan Fielder announced during a press conference that he was the coffee venue's mastermind.
The Los Angeles County of Public Health told NBC News it was shutting down the facility for operating without a valid public health permit, which is required of all restaurants.
The store had opened in Los Angeles Friday, copying the big coffee chain in every detail, except that it added the word “Dumb” in front of everything.
Fielder stars in a Comedy Central reality show called “Nathan For You” in which he takes real small businesses under his wing and gets them marketing buzz through off-kilter stunts.
A sign behind the counter listed items like “Dumb Caramel Frappucino,” “Dumb Cafe Mocha” and “Dumb Ice Coffee,” available in “Dumb Tall,” “Dumb Grande,” and “Dumb Venti.” The coffee as well as pastries were given away for free, and the cash registers were dark, according to reports.
News of the prank quickly went viral and lines for the fake coffee shop ran down the sidewalk.
Starbucks denied having any affiliation with the store.
"While we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark,” a company spokesman told NBC News.
A “frequently asked questions” form posted at the site purported that its creators considered it a parody and therefore immune from lawsuit.
“For legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art,” read the document. "So, in the eyes of the law, our "coffee shop" is actually an art gallery and the "coffee" you're buying is considered the art."
Fielder continued this line of reasoning in a video released on YouTube shortly after the media event where he portrayed himself as a new small business owner, serious about getting rich.
"By adding the word "dumb" we are legally allowed the coveted Starbucks name and logo because we've fulfilled the minimum requirements to be considered a parody under US law," said Fielder in the video.
Legal experts questioned the soundness of this argument.
"Trademark law does not, contrary to the suggestion by Dumb Starbucks, have a definitive parody defense," said University of Notre Dame Law Professor Mark P. McKenna.
During the press conference, before the Health Department arrived, the comedian said he planned to keep the store open "forever," and that he would be opening another one in Brooklyn next week, USA Today reported.
First published February 10 2014, 6:15 PM