Starbucks vs Starbung

BANGKOK - On one side is a billion-dollar global coffee chain. On the other is a Bangkok street vendor, selling coffee from his cart.

Starbucks, which had an annual net profit of US$1.38 billion (S$1.7 billion) last year, is suing Mr Damrong Maslae for 300,000 baht (S$12,000) for copying its famous green logo on his Starbung cart, the Bangkok Post reported.

Mr Damrong sells coffee for 20-30 baht each in the Thai capital.

Starbucks is also demanding a monthly payment of 30,000 baht plus legal fees, according to its Trademark Act violation complaint.

The coffee chain filed a petition with the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, seeking the arrest of Mr Damrong and his younger brother, Mr Damras, as well as financial compensation.

The court has set a trial date for Nov 4.

The company's petition states that on Sept 18, it obtained a court injunction ordering the brothers to stop using the words "Starbung Coffee" and the green logo for their products, clothing and paper wrappers.

But the pair declined to follow the injunction, the company said.

It sent them a warning letter to the men on Oct 17 last year, which they ignored.

Since then, the brothers have expanded the use of their Starbung mark on stickers, paper wrappers and clothes.

The company sent another letter, but Mr Damrong instead demanded three million baht from Starbucks.

Explaining the request for the money, he said that if Starbucks wanted him to stop using the mark, he would sell his business to the company for that amount.

Starbucks said it had asked the Intellectual Property Department to bring Mr Damrong into the arbitration system but the proposal was rejected.

Mr Damrong said he had adjusted the design of his logo since he received the letter from Starbucks.

His logo now has a figure of a man inside the green circle, which also has a star, a crescent, and a halal symbol.

Mr Damrong, a father of six children, said he will fight the case but has no money to pay the compensation.

Starbucks operates nearly 21,000 coffee shops in 62 countries, including 171 stores in Thailand.

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