Starbucks v. Starpreya: The Branded-Beverage Battle
First off, does anyone know how to say “Grande Soy Latte with Sugar-Free Hazelnut” in Korean?
On Wednesday, South Korea’s patent court ruled against Starbucks in a trademark infringement suit against Elpreya. Elpreya, a Seoul-based company, was established in 1999 and operates about 40 coffee shops mostly out of roving trucks (similar to ice-cream trucks). Elpreya sells its products under the brand name Starpreya.
Kim Woo Ki, chairman of Elpreya, stated that the brand name Starpreya was derived from the name Freja, a Norse goddess. He stated that Starpreya has nothing to do with Starbucks and that the letters of the name Freja were changed to make it easier for Koreans to pronounce.
Starbucks claimed that consumers confused the Starpreya-branded products with its corporate and brand name. The Korean Intellectual Property Tribunal disagreed and held that the marks were too dissimilar to be confused.
Starbucks Korea opened its first store in South Korea in 1999 and currently operates 177 stores. This is not Starbucks first bout with Elpreya. Last year the Starbucks filed suit against Elpreya arguing that their logo, a woman’s face within a green circle, was too similar to the symbol of Starbucks. The court rejected Starbucks’ claim that the marks were too alike, noting the mermaid versus goddess distinction.
What are your thoughts? Does the mark Starpreya infringe the mark Starbucks?