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Blue Bottle Coffee Loses Trademark Suit Against ‘Blue Brew’

Blue Bottle Coffee

A United States District Court judge this week ruled against Blue Bottle Coffee in a trademark infringement case against the owner of the Blue Brew brand of coffee equipment.

In a redaction-filled 55-page order submitted on Tuesday, Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern California U.S. District Court dismissed Blue Bottle’s motion for a trial, noting that there is no proof that consumers have been or are likely to confuse the two brands.

Blue Bottle, the specialty coffee company famously founded by James Freeman in his Bay Area garage in 2002 before expanding to at least 70 stores throughout the world, argued that the Blue Brew name, marks and trade dress were infringing on Blue Bottle’s longstanding trademarks, including its oceanic blue color (Pantone 2995C, according to court documents).

Blue Bottle lawsuit

Some blues at issue in the case, according to court documents, including the defendant’s Pantone 305C (upper left) and 2130C (bottom left), and Blue Bottle’s Pantone 2995C (right).

Blue Brew was founded as a subsidiary of Southern Technologies, LLC, a company created by Hui Chuan Liao, a Taiwanese woman with an Oakland, California, address. In evidence supplied to the court, Liao shared previous emails to a graphic designer that referenced the Blue Bottle Coffee shade of blue, but said the intent was to avoid the specific shade. Liao also said that the Blue Brew logo and packaging were specifically designed to recall the Blue Mountain coffee-growing region of Jamaica, according to court documents.

Under the Blue Brew brand, the company sells a range of coffee equipment such as pourover coffee drippers, manual grinders and drinkware that come in familiar shapes and materials. The equipment is packaged in a branded box with two shades of blue, one lighter and one darker than the Blue Bottle blue, according to the judge.

Notably, the lawsuit dates back to August of 2021, approximately one month after Blue Bottle Coffee assigned all of its trademark rights to parent company Nestlé, which acquired Blue Bottle in 2017.

While respecting Blue Bottle’s right to file the trademark suit against Blue Brew, Justice Breyer found insufficient evidence to move the case to a trial.

In his conclusion, he wrote, “While the Court’s conclusion herein is based on more than a single factor, that the parties’ marks are not similar leads the Court to believe that no consumer is likely to be confused.”

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