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Starbucks. Less Bucks, More Stars

25 August 2022

Starbucks left Russia. It is their decision. However the shops and the registered trademarks remained.

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The business was bought from Starbucks’ Turkish franchisee by Russian entrepreneurs Pinsky and Kanokov. They could not think of anything better but copy Starbucks trademarks and file applications for slightly modified images:

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The first coffee shop was opened on August 18, 2022 under a new name “ Stars Coffee”. Creativity is not their strong suit. Starbucks was a rendition of a mining town Starbos. There are many mining cities in Russia. They could name their coffee shop Kemstars (Kemerovo is a mining city in Siberia) or Kustars (Kuznetsky Mining) or the like but they did not do so. They simply borrowed half of the word and did not take the trouble to change much the images, same general impression, same stars.

The trademark applications were published as prescribed by the patent office rules. That does not mean that the applications will turn into registrations. Specifically, the publications are made for the purpose of possible opposition. The examiner most probably will reject those trademark applications but if an interested person files an “observation letter” calling examiner’s attention to the existence of similar or identical marks this will expedite expected refusal of the applications.

Stars Coffee is not the only attempt to sponge on the established reputation of other business. None of the attempts were successful. The most talked of was Uncle Vanya imitating McDonalds. The trademark squatter filed a trademark application but quickly understood that he would not stand a chance to register it and withdrew the application. This however gave birth to multiple statements in the media alleging that Russia cancelled intellectual property. The wave of false information was such that the patent office came out with a statement trying to assuage the fears of trademark owners.

In the Starbucks case their trademarks remain protected and the rights therefor may be enforced without difficulty. The clock started ticking however because of the beginning non-use period. If three years go by and Starbucks does not return, much to chagrin of coffee lovers those trademarks will become vulnerable to cancellation. Even if cancelled this does not mean that imitating designations will be registered. The Starbucks lady is too much familiar to Russian consumers so that even after expiration of three non-use years a coffee addict examiner of the patent office may reject an attempt to register a confusingly similar designation. Though, who knows.

What can be asserted with certainty is that the courts are adamant in protecting IP rights. In late August, a piece of news came. A lady pensioner from the Far East of Russia attempted to sell a lady’s bag Dior at $77 when the police came. At first she was fined for $80 for infringing the trademark right. But then, the trademark owner sued her and demanded $2,500 compensation for the infringement. The court satisfied the claim. Infringers beware!

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