November 12, 2019
Starbucks has contested a trademark application by a small Alaskan apparel company, claiming that Starbucks’ use of a siren in its branding extends to the word “siren” itself.
In late 2018, Mountains and Mermaids, an online retailer based in Wasilla, Alaska, applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a trademark over the phrase “Siren’s Brew.” The company recently began displaying the image of a siren holding a cup of coffee. Starbucks has sought to block this application on the basis that it is too closely connected to its own branding, including the familiar design of the two-tailed mermaid in its logo.
Although Starbucks does not own a registration for the word "siren", it claims that it has established common law trademark rights to the term. In its opposition filing, the company stated that, "as a result of the Starbucks Siren having served as the public face of Starbucks for nearly fifty (50) years, as well as Starbucks and Starbucks’ employees use of the term Siren in reference to itself and its products and services . . . the public has come to associate not just the various images of the Starbucks Siren . . . with Starbucks, but also the term 'Siren' itself."
This case is a continuation of Starbucks’ recent attempts to register "Siren's Blend" as a trademark for coffee. Last February, Starbucks applied to trademark the name “Siren’s Blend,” which was rejected by the trademark office on the basis that Mountains and Mermaids had already applied for a "Siren's Brew."
Although Starbucks has offered to help Mountains & Mermaids phase out their Siren’s Brew products, and is willing to foot the bill for a new trademark application for the company to use “Mermaid’s Brew” instead, the retailer has stated that it will continue to protect its design and will not change its trademark.
Authors: Scott Kerr and Clara Ryu