A New Hampshire micro roastery that sells a dark coffee blend called "Charbucks" hasn't harmed coffee giant Starbucks, a federal judge ruled.
Seattle-based Starbucks failed to prove its image was tarnished by the Charbucks brand, U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain in New York wrote last week.
She said that in adopting the name, the Tuftonboro-based Black Bear Micro Roastery intended to take advantage of the similarity to the Starbucks' name. But, she ruled, the evidence did not support an inference it was done to mislead consumers about a connection between the two.
Starbucks, which sued the company back in 2001, claiming trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of the Starbucks trademark, also failed to demonstrate that a Charbucks brand is likely to hurt the perception of Starbucks goods in the eyes of the public, she said.
Jim Clark, owner of Black Bear, said he chose the Charbucks name to warn customers that his new roast was very dark. His company has used the name in incarnations that included "Charbucks Blend" and "Mr. Charbucks."
"I said, I want to name it something that will grab the average customer and stop them dead in their tracks," Clark said from his Portsmouth coffee shop, The Den. "We thought the product would be discontinued after a while, simply because of lack of interest."
Swain wrote that the packaging of Clark's product, offered by mail order and in Clark's coffee shop, "is different in imagery, color and format from Starbucks logo and signage."
There was no evidence Clark's company "advertises by radio or uses Charbucks as a stand-alone word in promoting or offering its product," she said.
Starbucks packaging includes a circular logo containing a mermaid. Charbucks packaging identifies it as a product of Black Bear Micro Roastery by color, words and a picture of a man walking, Swain said.