Starbucks lawsuit alleges fake sites ‘trick’ customers with false franchise, licensing offers

(Photo Credit: Chutima Chaochaiya/Shutterstock)

Starbucks franchise, licensing lawsuit overview:

  • Who: Starbucks sued the unknown parties behind two websites that claim to be associated with the company and offer fake franchise and licensing opportunities.
  • Why: Starbucks says the entities behind the websites infringe on its trademark.
  • Where: The Starbucks franchise lawsuit was filed in a Washington federal court.

Starbucks sued the unknown parties behind two websites that claim to be associated with the company and offer fake franchise and licensing opportunities.

Starbucks Corp. filed the lawsuit against the 10 unknown “Does” Oct. 19 in a Washington federal court, alleging copyright and trademark infringement and breach of unfair competition laws.

According to the complaint, two websites—starbucksfranchise.com and starbuckslicense.com—use published copyrighted material and trademarks owned by Starbucks to trick consumers.

“The infringing sites are intended to appear as legitimate Starbucks sites offering legitimate Starbucks products and/or services—even though they have no affiliation with Starbucks—and as a result have caused Starbucks harm and ongoing injury,” the Starbucks lawsuit states.

Starbucks lawsuit alleges customers report confusion over websites

Starbucks received reports from customers and authorized sellers expressing their confusion at the websites’ offers of franchising and licensing opportunities, the Starbucks lawsuit states.

The customers allegedly received fake memoranda of understanding, licensing agreements and invoices from the websites, Starbucks says.

It added that it tried to identify the person or people behind the websites, but its investigation found the sites were registered using fake names.

The fake websites dilute the Starbucks brand and openS both consumers and the company up to risk, the Starbucks lawsuit states.

“Starbucks has developed substantial goodwill and strong consumer recognition in the Starbucks marks,” the company says. “By distributing Starbucks products exclusively through authorized sellers, Starbucks is able to ensure the safety, well-being and satisfaction of consumers and maintain the integrity and reputation of Starbucks products.”

Starbucks’ is suing for copyright infringement, trademark infringement and violation of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

The company seeks an injunction blocking the unknown defendants from continuing to allegedly infringe the Starbucks marks and copyrights, plus damages, fees and costs.

Meanwhile, in April, a coffee lover South Starbucks, alleging the multinational company underfills its Cold Brew Concentrate coffee products. The case is ongoing.

What do you think of the allegations in this Starbucks lawsuit? Let us know in the comments!

Starbucks is represented by Venkat Balasubramani, Jennifer Davis and Stacia N. Lay of Focal

PLC.

the Starbucks copyright lawsuit is Starbucks Corp. v. Does 1-10, Case No. 2:22-cv-01481, in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington.

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