Sam Buck Loses Copyright Suit to Starbucks

Cory Doctorow reports,

A woman named Sam Buck opened a coffee shop in Astoria, Oregon in 2000, two years before a Starbucks opened down the road. She named her shop Sambuck’s, and the judge in her case said that she willfully infringed on Starbucks’s trademark in so doing.

Well, sure. If a guy named Mac Donald opened a hamburger chain and named it after himself, he’d lose, too.

Buck might have a better case had she named the shop “Sam Buck’s Coffee Shop” rather than “Sambucks Coffee.” And the fact that she opened her shop before Starbucks opened one on the same block is irrelevant. Again, had her shop been in existence before Starbucks became a nationally famous chain, she might have a case.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark says:

    Reminds me of the movie “Coming to America” – McDonald’s vs. MacDowells!

  2. Matt says:

    Heh, that’s the exact comment I was going to leave, Mark.

  3. Bithead says:

    And me..

  4. Mark says:

    Well, since this is what everyone thinks, here is the quote from the movie itself!:

    Look… me and the McDonald’s people got this little misunderstanding. See, they’re McDonald’s… I’m McDowell’s. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.

  5. leelu says:

    Mark’s quotation brings up a point… what did her shop look like? Were her signs and such similar to Starbucks? I would think that if she were trying to imitate the ‘look and feel’ of a Starbucks, it would have added fuel to the legal fire.

    Does anyone know??

  6. leelu says:

    …follow the links, leelu.

    Well, the logo seems different enough.