Small NH coffee producer prevails over Starbucks

TUFTONBORO, N.H. — A small New Hampshire coffee producer that operates out of a barn has prevailed in a trademark infringement case brought by Starbucks over a blend called “Charbucks.”

“We’re just a mom-and-pop little roastery,” said Annie Clark, who with her husband, Jim, owns Black Bear Micro Roastery in Tuftonboro. They were sued in 2001 in federal district court in New York by Starbucks, which alleged Black Bear’s use of the name “Charbucks” infringed, blurred and tarnished its famous trademarks.

Starbucks appealed to the 2nd U.S. Court Circuit Court of Appeals after Black Bear prevailed in district court. The appeals court agreed with the district court in a decision Friday, saying Starbucks didn’t prove its case.

Charbucks, introduced in 1997, is Black Bear’s darkest roast coffee. The appeals court noted that “one of the reasons Black Bear used the term `Charbucks’ was the public perception that Starbucks roasted its beans unusually darkly.” But it agreed with the district court in finding minimal similarity and weak evidence of actual association between the brands.

“Their sales haven’t been hurt,” Clark said, noting that Black Bear’s haven’t changed much over the years. “Their growth hasn’t been hurt.”

Seattle-based Starbucks respects but disagrees with the court’s decision, company spokesman Zack Hutson said.

“We only filed the suit after a prolonged but unsuccessful attempt to enlist Black Bear’s cooperation and to resolve this matter without litigation,” Hutson said Monday.

Starbucks is a responsible trademark owner and was asking only for an injunction against the use of “Charbucks,” he said. The case did not involve monetary damages.

Starbucks can ask for a rare hearing before the full appeals court. They also can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hutson didn’t indicate whether Starbucks would proceed with further appeals.

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish County’s campaign to land the 797 takes off

Executive Dave Somers announced the formation of a task force to urge Boeing to build the plane here.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Drone’s ease piercing of NY ‘no-fly’ zone underscores risks

An Army Black Hawk helicopter suffered damage to one of its rotor blades, but was able to land safely.

Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4B deal

Before the buyout, 21st Century Fox will spin off the Fox network, stations and cable channels.

Commentary: GM, Boeing fight a war of words over Mars

Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future.

Angel of the Winds pays $3.4M for Everett arena naming rights

The casino replaces Xfinity as the lead sponsor for the publicly owned downtown Everett events center.

Delta orders 100 Airbus A321neo jets valued at $12.7 billion

Boeing had hoped to land the deal, offering comparable 737s.

Pain lingers decade after recession

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

FCC votes along party lines to end ‘net neutrality’

Republican-controlled FCC junks the principle that said all web traffic must be treated equally.

Most Read