Starbucks sues Bangkok's 'Starbung' coffee stall over use of logo

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 11:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 9:04am

Starbucks has filed a lawsuit against a Bangkok-based coffee stall owner in a dispute over its logo.

The US firm says the green-and-white "Starbung" emblem used by 43-year-old Damrong Maslae - which features a man in a skullcap pouring coffee and holding up a victory sign - infringes on its intellectual property rights. It is suing Damrong and his brother Damras, with whom he operates the stall, for 300,000 baht (HKS75,000).

Starbucks filed a cease-and-desist letter late last year and called for the brothers to stop using the logo. The company has since filed a trademark violation complaint, and last week it filed a petition with the international trade and central intellectual property court and called for the arrest of the brothers.

In addition to the 300,000 baht payout, Starbucks is also demanding 7.5 per cent annual interest and monthly instalments of 30,000 baht until the pair abandon their Starbung insignia. It says the likeness of the two logos could make customers believe they were buying Starbucks coffee when it was from Starbung.

Damrong, a father of six who has been serving coffee for 15 years, said that his logo was created by a design-savvy friend and inspired not by the US firm but by his religion, Islam.

"My logo is halal and has a moon and a star, and is green for the colour of Islam," said Damrong, better known by customers as Bung. "Starbucks has insisted I take out the green and the words star and coffee. I can't do that."

Damrong said his sweet black brew - served Thai style for 30 baht in the Phra Athit backpacker hub - was praised by customers as tastier than that of Starbucks.

"I roast and mix my own recipe," he said. "English tourists have become friends with me and love my coffee."

Determined not to back down against the US firm, he promised: "I will fight them to the end."