Starbucks Trademark “Frappuccino” Stays Protected

In the case of Starbucks Corporation v. Lol Café & Anr, the Delhi High Court awarded Starbucks (“Plaintiff”) legal costs in its trademark infringement suit restraining the Defendants from infringing and/or passing off the Plaintiff’s registered trademark “Frappuccino” or any other similar trade mark in relation to their goods and services.

Starbucks Corporation, an American lifestyle-brand company incorporated in 1985, offered under its registered trademark, “Frappuccino,” a hand-crafted blended cold beverage worldwide. The mark is used in over thirty thousand Starbucks stores in over 80 countries and territories and is distributed through multiple third-party grocery, retail, and wholesale stores globally.

In 2011, Starbucks opened retail stores in India through an equity joint venture with Tata Coffee Ltd. and obtained the registration of “Frappuccino” in India under various classes. The Plaintiff asserted that the mark constituted invaluable intellectual property rights of the Plaintiff, which have been successfully protected across the globe.

In November 2018, the Plaintiff was made aware of the opening of a café/restaurant in Jaipur, Rajasthan that offered a beverage named “Brownie Chip Frappuccino”. This was being sold without the Plaintiff’s permission, authorisation, or license. For promotion and advertisement, the defendants used the mark on menu cards and third-party listing services such as Zomato and EazyDiner. Further, the Defendants failed to respond to the cease-and-desist notice sent in December 2018. Soon after, the Defendants agreed to cease using the mark via a telephonic conversation; however, an internal investigation revealed this was not the case, hence the present suit.

The Court noted that despite serving notice, the Defendants did not reply or appear to contest the suit. The Court attested to the Plaintiff having a worldwide reputation in the said mark. The Court ascertained that the Defendants’ adoption of an identical mark was intended to deceive an unwary consumer and ride upon the mark’s reputation. The Plaintiff also uses the mark with a prefix like “Java Chip Frappuccino” for its beverages, similar to the Defendants usage.

Therefore, the Court held that the adoption of the mark by the Defendants was dishonest and amounted to infringement of the Plaintiff’s trademark, also resulting in the passing-off of the goods as those of the Plaintiff. Apart from the Court fee, the Plaintiff had prayed for an “Advocate fee” by filing a certificate in the amount of Rs. 13,38,917.85. This amount was awarded to the Plaintiff against the Defendants by the Delhi High Court.