Comedy Central’s Nathan Fielder is the prankster behind the so called “parody coffee shop” that opened the in Los Feliz neighborhood as “Dumb Starbucks.” The star of “Nathan For You” admitted that it was a prank and that he could use the Starbuck logo as long as it was in the context of a parody, according to a recent LA Times report.
Creators of the “parody” said that the coffee shop was like a gallery and the “dumb” drinks were the art, and therefore no laws were being broken. Starbucks officials disagree and said the store is illegally using its trademarked name.
Crowds stood in lines for hours to sample the “Dumb Starbucks” menu drinks playfully named “Dumb Iced Caramel Macchiato, Dumb Iced Coffee, Dumb Green Tea, Wuppy Duppy Lattes, and Dumb Frappuccinos, but served in white cups with the green Starbucks logo with “Dumb” preceeding “Starbucks.” Pasteries were displayed on shelves and “dumb” music CDs were also offered for sale. Fielder said that due to the wait time, customers were not charged for the drinks.
A separate LA Times report stated that the “Nathan For You” show “follows Fielder as he gets business owners to try absurd schemes." Fielder claims he is going to open a second “Dumb Starbucks” store in Brooklyn, New York, and that he plans on making money on his scheme. He claimed that Comedy Central was not aware that he was going to open the store. The plans for a second store were revealed before the Los Feliz store was shut down by the Los Angeles County Health Department for operating without a health permit.
In a 19th Century case, In Re Trade-Mark Cases, the United States Supreme Court stated that the right to adopt and use a mark to identify and distinguish one’s merchandise was a property right even recognized by common law. Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U.S. 82, 92 (1879).
“Aaron J. Moss, a partner at Los Angeles law firm Greenberg Glusker, said ‘DumbStarbucks’ is copyright and trademark infringement on steroids.” Starbuck officials claim they see the humor in the name of the store, but assert their name is a protected trademark.