A fake Starbucks coffee shop in southern California has caused a stir on US social media, after offering free drinks and pastries to puzzled customers.
“Dumb Starbucks,” which parodies the design of the coffee giant, opened on Friday in the Los Feliz neighbourhood of Los Angeles and quickly attracted crowds of curious people.
The sign, menu and décor of the shop look nearly identical to a regular Starbucks shop, with the only difference being the word “dumb” appended to the products.
We're now open for business! Visit us at 1802 Hillhurst Ave in Los Angeles. pic.twitter.com/WnVefrYM9b 
— Dumb Starbucks (@dumbstarbucks) February 7, 2014 
Enjoy our full menu of coffees and cold drinks pic.twitter.com/wPacrEEH9k 
— Dumb Starbucks (@dumbstarbucks) February 8, 2014 
“By adding the word ‘dumb’, we are technically ‘making fun' of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as ‘fair use’,” said a notice in the store.
“Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorised as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our ‘coffee shop’ is actually an art gallery and the ‘coffee’ you’re buying is actually the art,” it explained.
A Starbucks spokesperson told Southern California Public Radio that the company is looking into the new shop, but declined to say if it would take legal action.
If Starbucks were to file a lawsuit, it would have to prove that the use of its logo causes a likelihood of confusion, explained a legal expert. As a parody of the coffee chain, however, the new store’s name could be protected under the First Amendment.
The identity of the person or group behind Dumb Starbucks remains a mystery.