Dumb Starbucks + What NOT to do in Your Business.


This weekend, something really weird happened. And, by weird I really mean stupid. A coffee shop opened in Los Angeles called…

Dumb Starbucks.

Yep, I’m serious.

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photo: Dumb Starbucks twitter page


Don’t get me wrong. It’s pretty nifty from a branding/cool-factor perspective. But, legally…that remains to be seen.

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photo: Dumb Starbucks twitter page


Here is the deal.

U.S. copyright law protects expressions of ideas. For example, if I write something (like this blog post), then I own the copyright. This blog post is a written expression of my ideas. In order for you to use my work (say, you want to republish it on your own blog) in any way…you have to get my permission. There is an exception to the copyright law called “fair use.” Fair use is, in my opinion, is one of the grayest areas of law. Guess what? Parody and satire are protected under the law…as fair use. Dumb Starbucks claims that they are protected under “Parody Law.”

I know. What does this mean in regular language?

If a work is considered parody or satire then the regular rules of copyright don’t apply. You don’t have to get permission. But, remember I said that this ish is real gray? Well, what constitutes parody or not is where the legal complexities come into play and often the issue that needs to be decided by the court when …someone get’s pissed.

Now back to this Dumb Starbucks situation…

A few things here that I will point too – Dumb Starbucks is selling an identical product, that gives the same commercial “feel” of Real Starbucks (i.e. signage, logos, cups, etc). There is little that tells us that this is not Starbucks-affiliated beyond the nearly-unnoticeable disclaimer on their store’s FAQ that most people will miss. There are other issues with Dumb Starbucks (possible trademark infringement) but this post focuses on the concepts of fair use and parody.

I highly doubt that Real Starbucks will sit back and do nothing. I look forward to following the action once that lawsuit is filed.

My hunch tells me that this was the brainchild of someone with gall, a ridiculous amount of money to spare and a wicked sense of humor. This is a classic case of “Don’t try this at home, kids.” And for you uber-literal folks…don’t try this in your biz.

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photo: eater.com

What say you?

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