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Dumb Starbucks: Art, Shameless Opportunism or Just Dumb?

Facebook photo by Dumb Starbucks

Twitter photo by Dumb Starbucks

Take everything at a Starbucks and put the word “dumb” in front of it: Dumb Starbucks, dumb venti, dumb caramel macchiato, etc. This is the idea behind a new coffee shop in the Los Feliz neighborhood in Los Angeles (1802 Hillhurst Ave.) where the shop’s name (Dumb Starbucks) and every menu item is a mockery of the Seattle-based giant.

The shop opened this weekend, and according to Washington Post reports, was giving out free coffee to celebrate. One of the two baristas on hand told the Post she was quickly hired by a man whose name she couldn’t remember. For people with questions about the new shop, she passed out an FAQ flier that read:

So is this a real business?

Yes it is. Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. 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. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!

Are you saying Starbucks is dumb?

Not at all. In fact, we love Starbucks and look up to them as role models. Unfortunately, the only way to use their intellectual property under fair use is if we are making fun of them. So the word “dumb” comes out of necessity, not enmity.

The Dumb Starbucks menu. Twitter photo.

The Dumb Starbucks menu. Twitter photo.

Obviously, this is all going to end in a dumb legal battle. Starbucks infamously does not take suspicion of trademark violation lightly. The company has at least 56 registered trademarks related to logos and branding alone, and it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since 2000 defending them. See:

After Starbucks Cease and Desist, Micro Brewer Not Giving Up Without a Laugh

Starbucks vs. Charbucks: So Much More than a Boring Trademark Violation Case

Starbucks Sues Bangkok’s Starbung Coffee for Trademark Violation

(Update, Feb. 11, 2014 — As of this morning, Dumb Starbucks has been shut down by the county health department for operating without a permit. It has also become known that Dumb Starbucks is a project of comedian Nathan Fielder. Starbucks, meanwhile, says Fielder had no permission to use the Starbucks logos. Below see a tongue-in-cheek video in which Fielder explains the Dumb Starbucks concept.)




Jessie@ espresso makers

Yes its almost as if they are searching for attention through litigation. I’m almost certain this company could not last long. But maybe its’ a simple mockery of trademark laws in the US?

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