Thumbing its nose at the Goliath, Black Bear Micro Roastery, a mom and pop roaster in New Hampshire, has decided to continue to sell its Charbucks blend of particularly dark-roasted coffee, despite a lawsuit brought against them by the specialty coffee giant, Starbucks.
Starbucks’ lawyers argue two points. First, the “Inclusion of the term char as part of the Charbucks name immediately creates, in the minds of many consumers, the image of charred coffee beans, which has obvious negative connotations among potential coffee purchasers of coffee products.” And, further, that “Charbucks is so similar to Starbucks that consumers who hear or read the Charbucks name will instantly think of Starbucks.” The legal team appears to dance a very fine line, suggesting –without actually saying outright– that Starbucks has built its brand on charred coffee beans.
Black Bear, run by Annie and Jim Clark, is for all appearances a roaster dedicated to great coffee. The shop’s approach to roasting is exacting, and leans heavily on technology to produce consistent results. They roast and ship on a schedule designed to make sure their customers get fresh beans. They are serious about their craft.
While I’d think a tiff like this should lie below the threshold of a corporate juggernaut like Starbucks, I’d also expect a serious independent roaster to pick its battles more carefully. What do you think?