Green Dot, White Cup Still Art to Starbucks, Despite Being Told No


Susan Scafidi was quoted in a Bloomberg Law article about the distinctive design of a Starbucks cup.

Starbucks Corp. has spent nearly six years trying to convince the Patent and Trademark Office that a white cup with a plain green dot is a distinctive design — and therefore warrants trademark protection.


The chain’s most recent design launched in 2011, when it simplified its black and green circular emblem. Its cups now feature its iconic siren carved out of a green circle without lettering. But now the coffee chain is arguing that it should have control over an even simpler design on a white cup—the green circle itself.

Registration of the green dot might help Starbucks enforce its marks against “clear bad actors,” but not necessarily against unintentional infringers, Anderson Duff, a New York-based trademark attorney for intellectual property law firm Revision Legal PLLC said. He called the mark “difficult to obtain, and to police,” and predicted Starbucks’ argument that the logo isn’t essential would ultimately fail.


But Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fordham Law School’s Fashion Law Institute, disagreed.


“It doesn’t strike me as all that complicated a matter to imagine a Starbucks cup,” she told Bloomberg Law, adding that the “impressionist, cubist” version of the logo will further cement itself as representing Starbucks.

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