Starbucks sued an Indian coffee shop for serving Frappuccinos

The original Frappuccino was brewed in 1992 by George Howell, owner of the Boston-based Coffee Connection
Starbucks sued an Indian coffee shop for serving Frappuccinos
Photo: Mohammad Khursheed (Reuters)
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Over the years, Seattle-based Starbucks has sparred often over its trademarks. Its latest battle, a successful one this time, was against an Indian coffee shop.

Starbucks, which has 268 stores in 26 Indian cities, had filed a case in December 2018 saying that Jaipur-based LOL Cafe was selling a beverage called “Brownie Chips Frappuccino” without its permission, authorization, or license.

It accused the cafe of passing off its products as those of Starbucks’ and not responding to multiple notices in connection with this in 2019.

On Nov. 17, the Delhi high court permanently restrained LOL Cafe from serving its Frappuccino.

“The adoption of the mark ‘Frappuccino’ by the defendants is dishonest, and is intended to deceive an unwary consumer. It amounts to infringement of the plaintiff’s trademark and would also result in passing off the goods of the defendants as that of the plaintiff’s (Starbucks),” the high court (pdf) said.

“The defendants were also making reference to the beverage name ‘Frappuccino’ on the electric menu cards of their establishment, which are also being uploaded on third-party listing portals such as ‘Zomato’ and ‘EazyDiner’ for promotion and advertisement,” the order noted.

The coffee bar was also slammed with a litigation expense of more than 13 lakh rupees ($15,945).

Starbucks’ penchant for the legal course

This is not the first time Starbucks has sued for its trademarks.

In 2020, Japan’s intellectual property high court dismissed its appeal to invalidate the trademark registration for the bubble tea chain Bull Pulu Tapioca. In 2013, Starbucks lost a case against US-based coffee seller, Wolfe’s Borough Coffee, which sold the “Charbucks” brand of beverages.

In 2018, New Delhi-based SardarBuksh coffee chain faced legal proceedings over its name and logo. While the company was forced to tweak its name to “Sardarji-Bakhsh,” the logo has remained.

That same year, Starbucks won a lawsuit against an application for a European trademark with a circular, black-and-white design featuring the words “coffee rocks.”

Frappuccino was not originally a Starbucks product

In 1992, George Howell, the owner of Boston’s Coffee Connection cafe, asked his marketing manager Andrew Frank to come up with a fresh recipe.

Frank developed a unique blend of coffee, sugar, milk, and ice, and used a frozen yoghurt machine to create a smooth, creamy consistency. He called it Frappuccino, a play on the New England milkshake, the frappe.

Coupons from the 1992 launch of the Frappuccino, courtesy of George Howell
Coupons from the 1992 launch of the Frappuccino by George Howell
Photo: Boston Magazine

Frappuccino revolutionized Boston’s coffee consumption habits and doubled Howell’s business over the next year to 23 cafes. Two years later, in 1994, Starbucks acquired the Coffee Connection chain, along with the Frappuccino brand, for $23 million.