Dumb Starbucks May Need Really Smart Lawyers To Stay Open
It may not be easy for Dumb Starbucks, a parody Starbucks coffee shop that opened its doors on Friday in Los Feliz, to stay open. Starbucks has spoken out about their patented trademark but attorneys say Dumb Starbucks will likely face an "uphill battle" to stay open.
From the logo to the menu, Dumb Starbucks, located at 1802 Hillhurst Avenue, looks nearly identical to the real thing, except for the word "dumb" inserted before everything. Lines poured outside the door and around the block over the weekend as the shop served free coffee and pastries bought from Vons to excited patrons (including actor Rainn Wilson).
The owners claim in their FAQ that they're protected by fair use law since they are technically "making fun" of Starbucks by calling everything "dumb" and that they are legally categorized as a "work of parody art." The FAQ says, "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."
Although Starbucks told TMZ that they do find the parody funny (um, sure...), they said, "they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark."
Greg Sitrick, an intellectual property attorney at Quarles & Brady, tells LAist that although Dumb Starbucks has an argument for parody law, they will most likely be facing some major challenges. Dumb Starbucks makes the claim that they are protected under the same parody law Weird Al Yankovic is protected under for his parody songs. However, Sitrick says Yankovic asks for permission to create his songs and at the end of the day, there is no confusion as to whether or not he's making a parody. It's a different story for Dumb Starbucks.
Dumb Starbucks and the real Starbucks are competing in the same space of the coffee shop market. If Dumb Starbucks was actually an art gallery or something completely different like a record store, then it would be a different story. Sitrick questions if someone who drives on the road past Dumb Starbucks would immediately recognize the shop as something other than an actual Starbucks store.
"They have an argument and that argument has played out in plenty of other cases," Sitrick says. "I just think they have an uphill battle because they are in the same space. Their [logo is] so close to the logo Starbucks is using and it's difficult to tell what the parody is."
Some have been speculating that this is part of a marketing ploy. Others are wondering if comedian Rainn Wilson and Community's Dan Harmon are in on it since they were among the first people to take to social media about it.
Who knows though? Dumb Starbucks may have just started a revolution of parody restaurant names. Like take this hilarious one we wish were real:
Update 4:30 p.m.: The man behind Dumb Starbucks has been revealed.