The word “Coffee” is derived from “Kahwa” in Arabic. “Kahwa” means a warm traditional drink with sprinkling of chopped dry fruits. By the time it was introduced in the West, the words “Kaffee” in German and “Coffee” in English started to be used. The Western world added milk and coffee beans to it, letting go of the dry fruits, that is how the modern-day coffee got its aroma and strong taste.
Interestingly, intellectual property law finds its intersection with the global coffee industry. As per Nice Classification of trademarks, coffee lies in Class 30 as a commodity (beverages made up of coffee, coffee beans, ground coffee beans, cocoa, tea, etc.) and in Class 43 as services (coffee shops, outlets, etc.). Apart from serving hot or cold coffee, the beans are used a powdered-form in making biscuits, chocolates, cakes, liquor and ice creams.
The coffee brands like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, 5 Peet’s Coffee from the US, 3 Costa Coffee from the UK, Mc Café from Australia, Tim Hortons from Canada, Nescafe from Switzerland as well as Café Coffee Day, Barista and Bru Gold from India gained prominent positions in global coffee trade over the past decades.[i] In fact, many food industry experts have tried to analyze, why does Starbucks top the list of brands when there is nothing extraordinary in their coffee beans, and no special coffee or extra ingredients that produce addition aside from caffeine. After years of study, it was revealed by consumer psychologists that the credit for their success ascent can be given to their trademark protection and marketing. Trademark registration for their novel coffee names (brand names) has enabled them a three-fold benefit:
- deterring market entry to similar newcomer brands;
- product diversification and brand differentiation;
- building strategic business partnerships.
At Starbucks, one does not get just an ordinary cup of coffee, for the names “Pike Place blend venti” and “Grande Cappucino” are crafted with creativity and novelty. However, Starbucks Corporation had to file an infringement suit against the defendants, for using the trade name “Sardarbuksh.” In 2018, the Delhi High Court ordered the defendants to modify their store name from “Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co.” to “Sardarji-Bakhsh Coffee & Co.” for 20 stores that weren’t opened. However, the court permitted the use of the then existing name “Sardarbakhsh Coffee & Co.” for their two operating stores.[ii] Hence, keeping vigil over one’s brand name is of immense importance.
Another important aspect is highlighted by the founder of Starbucks, Mr. Howard Shultz, “Coffee Experience is more Important than Actual Coffee Quality.”[iii][iv] Once the consumers get familiar with the logo, they enjoy the coffee-purchasing experience at the coffee outlets with the slow soothing music in the background. They prefer to buy the same brand without switching to a new one. The actual magic is in both the caffeinated beverage on one hand and the way it is presented to the thirsty consumer on the other; trademark protection blends with its brand image and marketing like sugar in a cup of hot coffee.
Adv. SHRADDHA PANDIT
B. A. LLB LLM
University of Mumbai
[i] Ten most popular coffee brands worldwide – https://www.tbsnews.net/feature/food/top-10-popular-coffee-brands-worldwide-145804
[ii] Starbucks Corporation v. Sardarbuksh Coffee & Co. & Ors., CS (COMM) 1007/2018
[iii] Buyer Psychology and Customer Value: Why Do People Buy Starbucks Coffee?- https://www.business2community.com/customer-experience/buyer-psychology-customer-value-people-buy-starbucks-coffee-0995182
[iv] Strategic Analysis of Starbucks Corporation by Nithin Geereddy – https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/nithingeereddy/files/starbucks_case_analysis.pdf