A federal judge says the name "Sambuck's" above a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop is too similar to Starbucks Corp. — the leading retailer, roaster and brand of specialty coffee in the world — and must be changed.
Owner Sam Buck named the store after herself. She opened it in 2000, before Astoria had a Starbucks. She got a cease-and-desist letter from the Seattle-based company in March of 2002.
Buck said Thursday that she had few details of a ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty of Portland. She faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees.
"The judge said I willfully infringed on (Starbucks') trademark, that I diluted their trademark," she said.
She was faced with erasing all traces of the name, from coffee cups to the sign outside to business cards.
"You're throwing away thousands of dollars worth of stuff," Buck said, "and you're left paying thousands of dollars more to have new things made."
Starbucks, with more than 10,000 retail locations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim, offered Buck $500 to drop the name.
She refused, and Starbucks sued.
She says she doubts people have trouble distinguishing her 10-foot-wide shop from a Starbucks, and that her business logo is not easily confused with that of Starbucks.
Starbucks has since opened a store in Astoria a mile east, in a Safeway building.
Starbucks spokeswoman Lara Wyss said the company is "pleased with the court's decision."
"While it is always Starbucks' preference and desire to resolve disputes of this nature informally ... we will seek the assistance of the courts to protect our trademark when we are unable to resolve the matter through alternate means," Wyss said in an e-mail.
Buck says legal costs will be a stretch but she doubts she will close.
"It keeps your motivation going," she said. "I think it will be OK."
Community support has given her added incentive.
"We're standing up for small business because corporate America is squeezing out the small businesses," Buck said. "It's real and it's going to happen if we don't do something."