Starbucks and IHOP: Partners in Bullying?

Kim Conte

starbucks coffeeA tiny European cafe learned the hard way what happens if your company's sign looks a little too similar to the iconic green and white logo with the twin-tailed siren:

Starbucks will get all up in your business!

The Seattle-based coffee giant asked Boulders Coffee Lounge -- a small village coffee shop in the United Kingdom -- to change its circular green sign after a customer complained that he had (wrongly) thought it was a Starbucks.

Imagine the extreme disappointment of realizing that you have to go elsewhere for your overpriced cup of coffee ...

Still, there's no excuse for trying to capitalize on another company's product -- no matter how burnt it may taste. According to a Starbucks spokesperson:

Over the last 40 years our logo and name have come to mean great coffee and service to millions of Starbucks customers, so it's important that we take care that its misuse does not cause confusion.

The owner of Boulders called the misunderstanding an innocent mistake and was happy to comply with the request.

And in a similar case of David versus Goliath (although this one sounds a little less innocent), the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) is suing the International House of Prayer (IHOP) for trademark dilution and infringement.

IHOP prayer is a 10-year-old Kansas City religious organization with thousands of members. IHOP (pancakes), which has been using the acronym since 1973, is accusing IHOP (prayer) of intending to "misappropriate fame and notoriety of the food chain." It claims that by using the same four-letter logo, IHOP (prayer) is wrongfully confusing the public.

The church has refused to comply with requests to cease use of the logo. We'll see if being slapped with a lawsuit might cause them to reconsider.

The pancake chain has a point there: I for one would be pissed if I had a craving for pancakes and pulled up to a church mission instead.

Do you think IHOP and Starbucks are bullies or simply protecting their rightful trademarks?


Image via TerryJohnston/Flickr

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