Cafe patrons do a double take

Cafe patrons do a double take

A new independent coffee joint that popped up in Holland Village recently has set tongues wagging all because of its name: 93°C Bean and Leaf.

For located right next door is neighbourhood stalwart and well-known coffee chain The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, better known as Coffee Bean.

The naming parallel has not escaped the notice of patrons, with many spotted taking souvenir snapshots of the two cafes' adjacent signs.

But while some found it a bit of a laugh, others like yoga teacher Esther van Vechgel wondered if the Lorong Mambong newbie might be risking trademark infringement.

"When I first saw it, I thought it was a joke," said Ms van Vechgel, 37.

Mr Rash Shalla, who runs a jewellery store just across the road from the two cafes, said that the new establishment had been the talk of the town since it appeared in recent weeks.

But he felt that both remained clearly distinct from each other.

"People know Coffee Bean and the new cafe's name begins with '93°C'," said Mr Shalla, who is in his 40s. "People will know the difference."

Co-owner of 93°C Bean and Leaf, Ms Evon Lum, told The Sunday Times that its name was inspired not by The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, but rather MediaCorp's Chinese drama serial 96°C Cafe.

The romance drama, which aired in April this year, revolved around a couple - played by local actors Desmond Tan and Paige Chua - who run a little-known cafe.

"I just wanted to set up a nice and cosy cafe, like in the drama," said Ms Lum.

"Setting up shop next to Coffee Bean was purely by chance after the previous tenant (of the unit now occupied by 93°C Bean and Leaf) moved out".

Ms Lum, however, now plans to shorten the name of her joint to just 93°C.

In fact, a new sign without the phrase "Bean and Leaf" has been ordered.

But she made it clear that the change is not out of fear of a legal challenge, but rather not to inadvertently promote her neighbour's brand.

The 30-year-old also insisted that there was no risk of confusion, noting that early patrons have been referring to her cafe, which sells coffee, tea, bubble tea and cakes, as "93°C".

The phrase "Bean and Leaf" was added simply to show that it also sells coffee and tea, she said.

Indeed, 93°C Bean and Leaf's concrete-floor and industrial look does not resemble The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's familiar warm, earthy tones.

The original coffee chain was founded in California by American Herbert Hyman some 50 years ago.

Its first franchise outlet here was started in 1996 by local entrepreneur Victor Sassoon, whose family still owns a majority of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

They declined to comment when approached by The Sunday Times.

But trademark law experts say that only if people are deceived by the new cafe's name, and believe it to be related to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in some way, could it get into trouble.

"If people get confused, but then realise the two are different, there's no issue," said lawyer Jason Chan, a director at Amica Law.

Still, Coffee Bean regulars such as business development manager Stanley Tan felt that visitors might get the shops mixed up.

"I was bemused when I saw it because the names are a little close," said the 32-year-old. "It could still be confusing for some people."

davidee@sph.com.sg


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