Starbucks Battles Small Alaska Apparel Company Over ‘Siren’s Brew’ Branding
Cheering for the favorite has its perks. After all, they usually win. But rooting for an underdog can be rewarding, too. The latter mindset will likely be the prevailing one in the dustup between Starbucks and Mountains & Mermaids, an Alaska-based apparel brand that is trying to salvage its trademark application for Siren's Brew goods, which is being contested by Starbucks.
Love it or hate it, Starbucks is probably going to be a constant component of the news cycle until the end of time, especially when the holiday season commences. In this case, the Seattle-headquartered behemoth is going after a much less renowned foe, hoping that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will reject the aforementioned application and give it the go-ahead to protect its Siren’s Blend trademark concept. Given the office already shot down Starbucks' February application for "Siren's Blend" in February, saying it would cause confusion with the Siren's Brew merchandise, one has to wonder if the powers that be have had too much coffee and gave up on common sense. Editorializing aside, this resonates as yet another instance where a big fish is going after a tinier one, and the potency of what’s brewing between them could have interesting repercussions for companies who are simply trying to earn a living while knowing that industry heavyweights are always going to grab the limelight.
With respect to Mountains & Mermaids, time seems on the side of owners Monica and Sarah Hamilton, who, according to various sources, are still waiting to hear about the outcome of their trademark application. Their Siren’s Brew endeavor beat the application from Starbucks by three months and, if it meets approval, could go a long way to promoting the mother-daughter duo’s marketing of products such as mugs, stickers and hoodies. Having branded apparel with the image of a siren/mermaid who is holding a cup of coffee, Mountains & Mermaids are also, in the estimation of Starbucks, swimming in troubling waters, as one could also say that the aquatic imagery too closely mimics the familiar logo design that the coffee powerhouse uses.
An Alaska press analysis of the matter notes that Starbucks, which last month issued a 348-page opposition notice, has even gone so far in its quest to secure the Siren’s Blend trademark to offer to pay for the Alaska pair to submit a second application, with Mermaid’s Brew being its suggestion for the merchandise's name. If that smacks of elitism to you, join our crowd, as it makes little sense for Starbucks to challenge the patent office’s earlier ruling and then have the nerve to suggest a second name for what Mountains & Mermaids wishes to hawk. While Starbucks has argued, and will likely contend even more passionately, that it has long lumped coffee and the image of a siren together, the Hamiltons are the ones who thought to use the name first to link it to products. One would think that Starbucks, which has made the siren an integral logo component since its 1971 establishment, would have thought to incorporate the word in a drink long ago, but it had not until this past winter. That lack of activity would make the small business owners quite perky if the patent office continues to think of them as the forerunners and Starbucks as incapable of making their gripes percolate.