Starbucks v. Starpreya: The Branded-Beverage Battle

First off, does anyone know how to say “Grande Soy Latte with Sugar-Free Hazelnut” in Korean?

Starbucks and Starpreya LogosOn 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?



artists take pride in creation. you can't just tell them to change just because something is similar to another. that is an insult.
goddess design is elegant whereas mermaid design is cute. two completely different feel of design. i understand that the logo itself is similar. but those that are picky about coffee, they do not get confused just because of 2 logos that are similar looking to each other. get over it.

I'm an Asian and I believe that most Asian persons would see the mark being identical. Both mermaids and Greek Goddesses are not originated in Asian cultures--to many of us, those two illustrations are just faces of women; the only significant distinction are the directions the women in the illustrations face. Also, by looking at the Starpreya logo's shape, placement of text, graphics, and the star marks, I can't convince myself that the Starpreya logo is not derived from the Starbucks logo. It's not surprising to me at all--there are thouands of similar cases where Korean designers produce obvious rip-off's, e.g.:

Their mark is a clear copy of Starbucks. This Korean tribunal were ridiculously ethnocentric in their judgement.

If the tables were reveresed and Starbucks was a Korean company, you know this panel would have sided with them.

There's a professor at an American university (Michigan maybe) who has written a great book on how Asian minds perceive images differently from US minds (with UK relatively close to USA and Germany closer to the Asian mindset). Apparently, Asians see the world differently from Americans. So, maybe for Asians the Mermaid vs Greek Goddess is a decisive difference. What does the Korean "moron in a hurry" think, in the Main Street of Soeul, when he is looking for a cup of good coffee? I don't know. Presumably the Korean court took evidence. The good professor cites the example: "Cow, chicken, grass, which two go together?" Westerners say cow and chicken, but Asians say cow and grass.

That said, one can't help wondering what the court would have said if the rights holder had been Korean and the accused infringer had been American.

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