Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino sued by NYC cafe in trademark case

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Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino sued by NYC cafe in trademark case

Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino sued by NYC cafe in trademark case


(USA TODAY) -- A small New York City cafe is taking on coffee giant Starbucks in a legal war of the unicorns.

The End Brooklyn in a new lawsuit accuses Starbucks of trademark infringement, arguing that the color-changing "Unicorn Frappuccino" recently introduced by the Seattle chain overshadows the smaller company's health-conscious "Unicorn Latte."

The End started selling the Unicorn Latte in December, and has had a trademark application for the drink name pending since January, the company said in a Brooklyn federal court complaint filed Wednesday.

Starbucks launched the Unicorn Frappuccino in April as a limited-run item. The sweet offering quickly gained considerable media and consumer attention.

The drinks are similar in that neither contains coffee, but they are on opposite ends of the healthy consumption spectrum. The End says its Unicorn Latte is made from ingredients like dates, ginger root, cashews, blended with "healthy" dried maca root, vanilla bean, and blue-green algae.

The lawsuit, quoting from Starbucks’ website, says the larger competitor's drink is made from milk and artificial sweeteners.

"The size of and scope of Starbucks’ product launch was designed so that the Unicorn Frappuccino would eclipse the Unicorn Latte in the market,"  confusing the Brooklyn company's customers, the lawsuit alleges. "In addition to having a highly similar name, Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino shares visual similarities to the Unicorn Latte in that both were brightly colored and featured the colors pink and blue prominently."

Starbucks said it was aware of the claims "and believe they are without merit."

"The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino blended beverage was inspired by the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media," the company added in a formal statement. "The beverage was offered for a limited time in April and is no longer available in our stores."

The Brooklyn cafe, located in New York City's hipster Williamsburg neighborhood, nonetheless seeks unspecified compensation and a public apology.

Montauk Juice Factory, the cafe's parent company, created the Unicorn Latte "that our clients transformed into a social media sensation, developed (as)  a famous and valuable trademark, and took the appropriate steps to protect," attorney Josh Schiller said in a written statement. "Starbucks, with its thousands of coffee shops, launched a competing product with a similar look and name, and marketed it in the same channels where our client's product became famous."