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Starbucks Sues Small Louisiana Business in Mermaid-Siren Dispute

Starbucks logo

A Starbucks logo on a cup. Starbucks alleges that the Siren’s Brew Coffee Co. name and blue fish/human-like Siren’s Brew logo may cause confusion among consumers.

Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks is suing a mother-and-daughter-owned small business called Mountains & Mermaids, alleging trademark violations related to its siren-mermaid logo and branding.

Starbucks filed suit in United States District Court, Southern New York District, last week, although the legal issue between the two companies has been brewing since 2018.

Mountains & Mermaids (M&M), which is based outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in Livingston Parish, launched in 2017, selling nautical-inspired apparel. In 2018, the company began roasting and selling coffee under the brand name Siren’s Brew Coffee Co., according to court documents and previous news reports.

Alongside other M&M sub-brands such as Mother Ocean or Goddess of the Tides, the Siren’s Brew brand features a drawing of a mermaid with long red hair and the lower body of a blue fish. The mermaid is sipping something out of a blue mug.

In 2018, Starbucks appealed Mountains & Mermaids’ registration application for the “Siren’s Brew” mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) through the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB).

The coffee giant has alleged that the use of a logo depicting a siren-mermaid, as well as the name Siren’s Brew, are likely to cause confusion among consumers.

The TTAB ultimately sided with Starbucks regarding M&M’s coffee products in May 2023, although it allowed the Louisiana company to continue using the Siren marks and name on its apparel products.

Subsequently, Starbucks in January of this year received a federal registration from the USPTO for a separate “Siren’s Blend” mark in connection with coffee products, which the company says might further confuse the two brands.

coffee beans

M&M has continued to sell coffee with the Siren’s Brew Coffee name and logo, and has not appealed the TTAB decision, according to court records. Starbucks is now asking the U.S. District Court to intervene, while seeking financial and injunctive relief.

“Each and every sale of a bag of M&M’s coffee beans and ground coffee beans under the Siren’s Brew Mark represents a sale in violation of the trademark rights owned by Starbucks and in which Starbucks cannot control the product quality or conditions of sale of infringing products,” attorneys for Starbucks wrote in the lawsuit.

Mountains & Mermaids has not responded to DCN’s request for comment.

As of this writing, the company’s website included a page titled “Our Battle With Starbucks,” with the last published update coming in August of 2023.

“The legal process is long, complicated, and expensive — especially for small businesses,” the owners wrote at the time. “Rather than appeal this ruling, we have decided to focus our efforts on continuing to provide the best coffee and products that we can to our customers. We also plan to look for ways to improve the legal system to make it more accessible for small businesses like ours considering the USPTO just increased the price for businesses to file a trademark application which is a detriment to small businesses trying to protect their brand. When resolving a dispute before a court or agency costs many thousands of dollars and takes several years, big businesses have a built in advantage, and that is truly a shame.”

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