Michigan Cafe To Change Name After Caribou Coffee Wins Trademark Lawsuit

Image courtesy of Blue Caribou Cafe

Several years ago a small New Hampshire coffee roaster won a legal victory (twice) against coffee giant Starbucks over its name “Charbucks.” Things didn’t go so well for a Michigan cafe that must retire its name “Blue Caribou Cafe” after losing a trademark lawsuit filed by Caribou Coffee. 

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Caribou Coffee filed a trademark infringement against Blue Caribou Cafe last November after sending several letters asking the restaurant to change its name and received no response.

According to the lawsuit, the cafe’s name and logo misused trademarks that were “likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive,” and constitute unfair competition that can cause “irreparable harm.”

One of the owners of the cafe says the lawsuit was ridiculous, but that they couldn’t afford to fight the case in court.

“There is no way we could possibly come up with the money to fight back against this corporate giant, even though we have a chance at winning,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page started to raise funds for the cafe’s name and branding change.

Under the settlement, the restaurant has until early July to change its name and cease using the caribou symbol and designs. An outdoor sign for the cafe can continue to be used until September.

A spokesperson for Caribou tells the Star Tribune that the company “engaged in this litigation to protect our coffeehouse name and existing trademarks.”

“We recognize the burden this transition is having on the Blue Caribou Café, and given this unique situation, have contributed to their GoFundMe fundraising page to help with their rebranding efforts,” the company said without specifying how much the company had donated.

Caribou Coffee getting heat for trademark lawsuit against small Michigan cafe [Minneapolis Star Tribune]