Starbucks 'aware' of Dumb Starbucks, 'evaluating next steps'

Christina House / Los Angeles Times

Dumb Starbucks, the parody coffee shop in Los Feliz that launched a thousand tweets (and probably more), has caught the eye of the green monster to the north from which it takes its name.

Starbucks Corp., only the largest coffeehouse chain in the world, said in a statement via a spokesman Monday that it is “aware of the store” that opened without much fanfare Friday in Los Feliz.

“It is not affiliated with Starbucks,” said spokesman Zack Hutson. The Seattle chain has more than 20,000 stores in 63 countries.

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Walking into the Los Angeles unit, which over the weekend drew long lines while offering free joe,  is like entering a real Starbucks, except that almost every label and circular logo inside also features the word “dumb.”

On the menu, posted via a Dumb Starbucks profile on Twitter that has four tweets and more than 5,000 followers: a “dumb Frappuccino,” a “dumb blond roast,” a “wuppy duppy latte” and more.

An FAQ sheet posted inside the store explains the rationale of the mysterious owners.

“We are simply using their name and logo for marketing purposes. By adding the word ‘dumb’ we are technically ‘making fun’ of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as ‘fair use.’”

Starbucks, which said it earned record revenue in its most recent quarter, begs to differ.

“We are evaluating next steps, and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark,” Hutson said.

This, after all, is the same company that late last year sent a cease and desist letter to a tiny pub in Cottleville, Mo., warning the business to stop serving a so-called Frappicino beer because the name sounded too similar to Starbucks’ trademarked Frappuccino coffee drink. 

[Updated, Feb. 10, 10:30 a.m.: Dumb Starbucks “is copyright and trademark infringement on steroids,” said Aaron J. Moss, a partner at Los Angeles law firm Greenberg Glusker.

“Simply calling something a “parody” does not provide some kind of magical protection against infringement,” he said. “You can’t just take a famous logo and trade dress, call it dumb, and use it to sell the very same products in competition with the company you’re making fun of.”]

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