A Brooklyn café selling the Unicorn Latte recently filed a trademark-infringement suit against Starbucks alleging that the coffee powerhouse infringed, diluted, and diminished the value of the cafe’s intellectual property by marketing and selling the Unicorn Frappuccino.
The End Brooklyn, owned by Montauk Juice Factory, started selling the Unicorn Latte in December 2016. The drink, which is multicolored with an emphasis on pink and blue, contains ginger root, dates, algae, and vanilla bean. The café claims it took six months to develop the beverage. Since the drink’s release, the Unicorn Latte has become well-recognized on social media and accounts for approximately a quarter of the café’s sales. Montauk Juice Factory filed a trademark application on the Unicorn Latte in January 2017.
Starbucks’ unicorn-themed drink, the Unicorn Frappuccino, was on sale April 19-23. Similar to the Unicorn Latte, the Unicorn Frappuccino featured pink and blue coloring and did not contain caffeine. The Unicorn Frappuccino, Starbucks’ first new Frappuccino flavor of the year, contained milk with natural and artificial additives.
According to Montauk Juice Factory, the Unicorn Frappuccino was a competing product with distinct similarities to the Unicorn Latte, and Starbucks promoted the product through similar channels, namely social media. Montauk Juice Factory alleges that the scope of the Starbucks product launch was designed to overshadow the Unicorn Latte and created confusion among the café’s customers, some of whom attempted to order Unicorn Frappucinos at the café. The company claims that the damage to their trademark was exacerbated by certain online publications that mistakenly referred to the Starbucks product as the Unicorn Latte. Montauk Juice Factory filed a federal trademark-infringement suit seeking compensation for infringement and dilution of the value of the company’s intellectual property.
In response, Starbucks asserts that the claim lacks merit. The company noted in an e-mail that the Unicorn Frappuccino was a limited-time beverage that “was inspired by the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media.” A successful trademark infringement claim requires the plaintiff to show that (1) the plaintiff owns a valid mark, (2) the plaintiff has priority in the mark over the defendant, and (3) the defendant’s mark is likely to cause confusion among consumers as to the source of the good. It remains to be seen whether the federal court will find that the claim by Montauk Juice Factory satisfies these requirements.
For more information on federal trademark law, see O’Connor’s Federal Intellectual Property Codes Plus.
 See Brendan O’Brien, NYC Coffee Shop Sues Starbucks over Unicorn Beverage, Reuters, May 5, 2017; CBS/AP, Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino Slammed by Lawsuit, May 5, 2017.
 See O’Brien, NYC Coffee Shop Sues Starbucks over Unicorn Beverage; CBS/AP, Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino Slammed by Lawsuit; Karen Mizoguchi, Starbucks Sued over Unicorn Frappuccino, People, May 5, 2017.
 See CBS/AP, Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino Slammed by Lawsuit; Mizoguchi, Starbucks Sued over Unicorn Frappuccino.
 See Starbucks, Unicorn Frappuccino Blended Creme.
 See O’Brien, NYC Coffee Shop Sues Starbucks over Unicorn Beverage; CBS/AP, Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino Slammed by Lawsuit.
 O’Brien, NYC Coffee Shop Sues Starbucks over Unicorn Beverage.
 United States Patent and Trademark Office, About Trademark Infringement.