August 19, 2005
A victory for Star Bock
Good news in the Star Bock
A Galveston bar owner whose house-brand Star Bock beer prompted a copyright battle with the worldwide Starbucks coffee chain can continue to sell the private brew in his bar but can't sell the beer regionally or nationally, a federal judge ruled today.
"It's a victory in the sense that Starbucks was trying to shut me out completely and they weren't able to do that," said Rex "Wrecks" Bell, owner of the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in downtown Galveston. "I imagine that Starbucks hates it that I can still sell my beer."
U.S. District Judge Sam Kent ruled today that Bell's sale of Star Bock beer or related promotional items sold from the Acoustic Cafe "does not in any way infringe, unfairly compete with, dilute or otherwise impugn Starbucks' brands or trademarks."
But Kent said any effort Bell might make to sell beer under the Star Bock name outside his bar "would likely cause infringement, unfair competition and dilution" to Starbucks brands and trademarks.
Although disappointed that he can't launch a regional or national campaign to sell Star Bock beer, Bell said he expects wide news coverage of his copyright struggle with Starbucks to make his beer more popular than ever.
"Now that a judge has ruled that you can only buy it in Galveston, my beer might become more of a local attraction," Bell said.
Bell said he is considering whether to appeal Kent's ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to find out if the higher court agrees that his beer can be limited to local sale only.
Take the win and run, Rex. Ask the Saint Arnold
folks how tough it is to expand your market as a microbrew. Hell, ask the Shiner folks. You're right on the money about becoming more of a local attraction. I know I plan on coming by to sample the ware next time I'm down in Galveston.
UPDATE: Trademark, not copyright. My bad. Thanks to Azizam Jon in the comments for the correction.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 19, 2005 to Food, glorious food
Judge Samuel Kent, appointed to the bench by none other than W's father, is a screeching loon who constantly abuses his power and is ever-looking for opportunities to thumb his nose at the citizens.
He has no business on the federal bench.
Concerning his finding in this case, how does a beer product named after an ancient type of beer infringe on a coffee product?
Kent is full of it, as he usually is.
This case is a trademark case (dealing with goods) rather than copyright (creative works) to describe it as a copyright conflict is inaccurate.
Drink one for me.
If possible, send some to me. If the law thinks I'll be confused, then the law is an ass.
Double good news: Rex is re-opening the club (he closed it after the death of his wife) and he won his case. I hope he and his Galveston neighbors have happy days ahead.
What a load of crap. Does anyone seriously confuse coffee with beer? Drink a Star Bock's for freedom!
ttyler5, I quite enjoy Judge Kent's rants regarding motionts to transfer. My favorite: "Defendant will again be pleased to know that regular limousine service is available from Hobby Airport, even to the steps of this humble courthouse, which has got lights, indoor plummin', 'lectric doors, and all sorts of new stuff, almost like them big courthouses back East." Smith v. Colonial Penn Ins. Co., 943 F. Supp. 782. But he can get off his rocker sometimes.
Unfortunately, in this case I think he was probably right. The test in trademark infringement is the likelihood of confusion from the consumer's point of view. This does not have to be just as written. Star Bock sounds very close to Starbucks. It does not matter whether the word "Bock" refers to an ancient beer. What matters is that it sounds close to a mark used by another company in conjunction with its own goods, which may be confusing to the public. A very famous mark at that, which makes the case even stronger.
I do wish that it had turned out differently. Star Bock is such a cool name for a beer. And the logo could have been just a star. So cool and so Texas! Oh well.
That online ?test in trademark infringement? as presented during the case in front of Judge Kent was executed in a completely biased manner. Firstly, the online survey tested Starbock, not Star Bock Beer, against Starbucks. And then went on to test the hypothetical name Sunbock against Starbucks. Secondly, they were all U of H students who took the online survey with no supervision --- meaning several of them were likely underage and had no business taking the survey in the first place. Furthermore, there was nothing to stop a student/survey admininstrator/university or department head/attorney for StarBucks from filling the online survey out several times. And finally, if you work at a Texas state university, you are very well aware of how much StarBucks is joined at the hips with us! There is clearly a conflict of interest to fill out a survey at a University site (meaning they could figure out who had filled the survey out) and expect the student to rule against StarBucks -- even though their coffee is the worst ever produced on the planet (including some crap I was given to drink on a Russian train several years ago from Leningrad to Moscow). Starbucks even tried to delay the trial indicating that they needed more time with regard to the online survey --- which was the only tangible piece of evidence their attorneys presented --- the lead of whom is no longer employed by StarBucks for failing to file a timely appeal to Sam Ken?s ruling. Now Wrecks cannot lose no matter what happens with the appeal. The worst case scenario would leave him selling Star Bock Beer at his bar.