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Friday, May 23, 2008

Starbucks Asks Rat City Rollergirls to Change Their Logo

posted by on May 23 at 17:01 PM

The Starbucks Coffee Company has asked the Rat City Rollergirls (RCR)—a Seattle based roller derby league—to modify their logo because of, according to Starbucks spokeswoman Stacey Krum, of concerns about a “very similar look and feel of the logo.”


Krum says Starbucks spoke with RCR reps two days ago, and Starbucks has asked for an extension on the trademark ruling. “Under trademark law, you need to be careful to protect your own trademark,” Krum says.


Starbucks previously sued a comic artist, a Chinese coffee company and a Texas bar owner over trademark issues.

RCR did not respond to requests for comment. Krum says she expects the dispute to be wrapped up sometime in July.

RSS icon Comments


Rat City isn't topless and doesn't have her legs spread. I fail to see the resemblance.

Posted by RCRG | May 23, 2008 5:02 PM

Hey I gots a question here it is: What is the deal with roller derby? Thx.

Posted by elenchos | May 23, 2008 5:13 PM

not enough of a resemblance; look at the background color of the inner circle, and the outlines around the ring, and the fact that the figure(in profile) of the RCR logo crosses the plane and enters the outer ring at the top. The stars on the sides are fair game but they seem to be placed higher up and more centered than on the Starbucks one.

besides all that, I await the inevitable post about the body size of of the roller girls...cause that ads so much to the conversation.

Posted by point x point synopsis | May 23, 2008 5:19 PM

Not too much chance for market confusion.

One appears to be selling coffee; the other, pain.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | May 23, 2008 5:27 PM

wow, a similar look and feel, right. Starbuck's lawyers are really hopeful...I guess "RAT CITY" spells out "STARBUCKS"...WTF?

Posted by nipper | May 23, 2008 5:28 PM

and why NOW...RCRG have been around for a few years now...logo included!

Posted by nipper | May 23, 2008 5:30 PM

Why doesn't RCR ask Starbucks to change their logo?

After all, at least RCR loves Seattle, whereas Starbucks and the Sonics can go dip themselves in an acid bath ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 23, 2008 5:34 PM

I love the RCRG and this makes me sad, but ... here's a suggestion if you don't want to get sued from trademark infringement: don't design your logo by starting with someone else's and then mucking with it. We can debate whether it's "similar" but it would be an easier discussion if the dissimilarity weren't an obvious list of "changes".

Posted by daniel | May 23, 2008 5:40 PM

@2 - It's some fun shit. That's the deal. I hope this has cleared up any confusion you may here.

Posted by tsm | May 23, 2008 5:41 PM

i.e. "may have here"

Posted by tsm | May 23, 2008 5:41 PM

Starbucks claims ownership of all logos that are round, and usurpers will be soon getting letters from their lawyers. The sooner we all realize and accept this state of affairs, the sooner we can move on to real issues.

Posted by Logo Guy | May 23, 2008 5:44 PM

hello, can we say "least of their problems?"

Posted by socialarsonist | May 23, 2008 5:47 PM

To keep a trademark, you have to protect it.
If they overlook every logo that bears a strong resemblence to theirs, they won't be able to stop a competitor from doing the same in court down the line.

Posted by Jeff | May 23, 2008 5:53 PM


No I mean like is it like the NFL? Or WWF? Or halfway between (i.e. American Gladiators)? Do you really have to get there at 5 AM? Do you have to stay the full 19 hours? It it possible to know who is ahead? Is the only thing to eat hot dogs? That cost $7 each? Is there beer? It's not like the James Caan thing right?

Posted by elenchos | May 23, 2008 6:11 PM

I've never been in a Starbucks...but get over it.

Posted by Wolf | May 23, 2008 6:17 PM

Oh for fux sake! Starbucks is the new McDonald's. Roller derby jumped the shark three years ago though. The hip kids are into gator wrasslin'.

Posted by Chiquita Fiasco | May 23, 2008 6:20 PM

#13 is right - they're not doing this just to be pricks, they're doing it because they have to. The law requires you to protect it, otherwise you lose any rights to it. If that happens, then some coffee chain could use something similar to confuse people and Starbucks wouldn't be able to protect themselves.

Posted by Ed | May 23, 2008 6:35 PM

Nice free press for the RCRG. Thanks, Starbucks!

Posted by Trevor | May 23, 2008 6:48 PM

@14 It reminds me of that episode of Charlie's Angels with better costumes. We didn't get there at 5:30am, though we did get there late and had a hard time finding anyplace to sit. You can leave whenever. I didn't know what was going on but it didn't impede the enjoyment. And I think the food was fancier than hot dogs. It was f*ing hot when we went last summer though.

As tsm puts it, "it's some fun shit." Though apparently others here feel the shark has been jumped. IMHO, jumping the shark has also jumped the shark.

Posted by PopTart | May 23, 2008 6:55 PM

dear Howard:

Please discontinue the use of your logo immediately. I've been using the "stars inside of a circle" design for more than sixty years now.

If you do not desist immediately, don't be surprised if an Adamantium shield comes crashing through your window some afternoon.

Best regards,

Captain America (Deceased)

Posted by Calling All Citizens... | May 23, 2008 7:10 PM

dear Howard:

Please discontinue the use of your logo immediately. I've been using the "stars inside of a circle" design for more than sixty years now.

If you do not desist immediately, don't be surprised if an Adamantium shield comes crashing through your window some afternoon.

Best regards,

Captain America (Deceased)

Posted by Calling All Citizens... | May 23, 2008 7:12 PM

@ 13 & 17:
Yeah, you guys are right. They have to do it(and they haven't sued, yet) but still, the fact that that's part of trademark/copyright law is really some inane protectionist corporate suckuppery that always works out for the monied and against reason as well as those without the benefit of expensive lawyers. It really doesn't have to be this way but business wants it that way, so everyone else just has to deal, and suck it.

Posted by point x point synopsis | May 23, 2008 7:30 PM

"They have to do it"

No, they don't. None of them do. And we endorse their asshattery when we make excuses FOR them.

Posted by Mike Daisey | May 23, 2008 8:35 PM

Aesthetic similarity is not determinative. The question is whether there's a likelihood of confusion.

As someone pointed out above, the proximity and similarity of the goods sold under the logos aren't close--coffee vs. roller derby. Additionally, no one is going to be confused about whether Starbucks is running Rat City. And, while policing your mark is important, Starbucks is not even close to abandoning their trademark.

#22, I disagree with you. Trademark law developed as a consumer protection, a measure against unfair competition, so that people don't get duped into buying a shit product from someone deceptively copying a successful business' efforts and ideas. That's why companies w/ registered, or protected, trademarks have a duty to police the use of their mark. Of course some companies will overstep. But the alternative is an immediate lawsuit or inaction. Then anyone can identify a successful business' widget, create a lesser quality copy, label it with the first company's label, and trick the public into buying it by passing it off as the first company's product.

And copyright law, "inane protectionist corporate suckuppery"? I'll leave that for another day.

Posted by California | May 23, 2008 8:39 PM
Posted by Enuja | May 23, 2008 8:42 PM

i can see sense in starbucks going after the three examples linked, even if, in two of those cases, the actual need to go after the comic and beer logos seems pretty small.

but the rcrg logo? circles and stars are pretty basic design elements, even more so in derby, where diy budgets require images that can be reproduced cheaply and cleanly, shrunk down or blown up. my old league's logo featured a wheel/circle, and had stars in it. my new league's logo is inside a circle.

the rcrg logo does not have a 'starbucks look'. its got a 'derby look'.

Posted by Chloe | May 23, 2008 8:50 PM

dear Howard:

Please discontinue the use of your logo immediately. I've been using the "stars inside of a circle" design for more than sixty years now.

If you do not desist immediately, don't be surprised if an Adamantium shield comes crashing through your window some afternoon.

Best regards,

Captain America (Deceased)

Posted by Calling All Citizens... | May 23, 2008 8:51 PM

Ooooh, I couldn't help myself. This one is so much better.

Posted by Enuja | May 23, 2008 8:53 PM

your disagreement is a glass half full type thing; I see it as half empty, and the corporations are able to drink the rest while everyone else dies of thirst. But then they own the people who write, interpret and enforce the laws.

and Mike Daisey:
thats why I said after "It really doesn't have to be this way"... I really despise how business conducts itself and the passes it gets as the "ultimate good" we should all aspire and give ourselves over to.

in effect all i was saying is that we are over a barrel. maybe too pessimistic, still, its pretty much the fuckery of reality.

Posted by point x point synopsis | May 23, 2008 9:09 PM

I think if they took the stars off there'd be no problem.

Posted by Julie | May 23, 2008 9:25 PM

ohhh and i'm sorry for using suckuppery and fuckery. aaaaaahh.

theres no excuse nor forgiverry for that kind of shittery.


Posted by point x point synopsis | May 23, 2008 9:27 PM

following a quick google image search . . . roller derby logos featuring an image (usually female) inside a ring/circle, (many) with text broken up by stars/circles/etc., and which are or sometimes are in b&w:

Derby City Roller Girls
Penn Jersey Roller Derby
Monsters of the Midwest
Psych Ward Sirens
Dutchland Rollers
Stateline Roller Derby Divas
Hamilton Harlots
Providence Roller Derby
Dixie Derby Girls
Assassination City
Steel City Derby Demons
Philly Roller Girls
Battleground Roller Derby
Santa Cruz Roller Girls
Montreal Roller Derby
Sault Roller Girls
Gotham Girls
Hard Knox Roller Derby

and this is where i got tired, and figured the point was made. the second that anyone walks up to any of these skaters expecting a venti something or other, i'll hear out starbuck's argument.

until then, if you're on one of these leagues, i say you start writing to starbucks now.

Posted by Chloe | May 23, 2008 9:30 PM

I, too, felt the stars are what made it too Starbucks-y.

Posted by Big Sven | May 23, 2008 9:31 PM

@14 - It's more like semipro football, in that it gets a bit rough but isn't really actively violent, and everyone playing has a jolly good time. There are in fact rules, and once you learn them it gets fun to watch. No, you don't have to stay the whole time, and no, you don't have to eat hot dogs - this is Seattle; even the sporting event food is yuppified.

Posted by tsm | May 23, 2008 9:36 PM

i dare rat city to compromise by changing the stars to coffee cups.

starbucks does not own basic clip art shapes.

they're not even in the same place on the logos, and they're used for a pretty universal purpose (one that LOTS of logos use such shapes for) - to demarcate the space between words, not to indicate any sort of corporate identity.

Posted by RedAppleFalls | May 23, 2008 9:38 PM

seriously? y'all are pretending to NOT notice that RCRG totally copied the starbucks logo? i personally love it, but c'mon. luckily, their products are totally different, but really - you're telling me the creator of the rat city logo didn't totally spoof starbucks? really?

Posted by joey | May 23, 2008 11:11 PM

Apparently, Howard found some sports fans in Seattle that he had not completely alienated and couldn't let that stand.

He'll be after the tetherball crowd pretty soon.

You better watch out Timmy! Starbucks lawyers will be contacting you shortly.

Posted by Zander | May 23, 2008 11:38 PM

hey, joey, the joester, joe a-rama, makin' the copies, joe a later - go back in time and write for snl like six months ago when that "really?" shit was new and sorta funny.
you ignorant slut.

Posted by pissy mcslogbot | May 23, 2008 11:41 PM

Actually, there are hot dogs at Rat City Rollergirls events, but they're from Skillet, made from 100% Kobe beef and are delicious.

Posted by Monty Ashley | May 24, 2008 12:23 AM

The image of a girl in a circle in black and white does not belong to corporate America. But even if it were an homage to the giant coffee company that has helped make Seattle more famous, and therefore an homage to Seattle itself, what's so wrong with that? (It seems more like a poke of fun, than a stab at thievery, to me.) The idea that Starbucks can claim that the RCRG logo is so similar that it's infringement is ridiculous.....soon they will require tattoo removal for anyone guilty of having stars or circles on their bodies (I personally have the RCRG logo on me).

Posted by RCRG Volunteer | May 24, 2008 1:04 AM

how can people blame corporations for the short sightedness of government policy and laws? as California states trademarks and copyright were first rolled out to protect consumers in theory and like most government programs the incentives of enforcement and execution were completely flip flopped. the FDA has become a monolithic 15 year drug way station and still lets bad drugs get through. The USDA still lets bad food get into the system. Public schools in America spend more per pupil for negligible benefit.

If the government had incentives to be better at adapting to unintended or unforseen consequences maybe i wouldnt be so down on government. but to blame starbucks for doing what is required of them not only for their benefit in the name of consumer protection as stated by the government, and without revision by the government...well thats just nuts even if you are as smart and eloquent as point x point.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | May 24, 2008 2:17 AM

sbux should let the RCR use the logo, and then write off that "goodwill" as a $4.5M expense.

(maybe they can use some of that money to buy new jackboots... j/k).

Posted by mmbb | May 24, 2008 5:20 AM

Chloe, I think I just fell in love with your desire to research.

Posted by mmbb | May 24, 2008 5:23 AM

For all the discussion of trademark law, no one has discussed dilution yet? Internet pseudo-lawyers, you fail.

Since Starbucks' logo would likely qualify as a "famous" mark, it therefore gains additional protection against dilution. The question is not whether there is a likelihood of confusion, because famous marks are protected from blurring, tarnishment, or free-riders.

"Suppose an upscale restaurant calls itself "Tiffany." There is little danger that the consuming public will think it's dealing with a branch of the Tiffany jewelry store if it patronizes this restaurant. But when consumers next see the name "Tiffany" they may think about both the restaurant and the jewelry store, and if so the efficacy of the name as an identifier of the store will be diminished. Consumers will have to think harder — incur as it were a higher imagination cost — to recognize the name as the name of the store"

"Now suppose that the "restaurant" that adopts the name "Tiffany" is actually a striptease joint. Again, and indeed even more certainly than in the previous case, consumers will not think the striptease joint under common ownership with the jewelry store. But because of the inveterate tendency of the human mind to proceed by association, every time they think of the word "Tiffany" their image of the fancy jewelry store will be tarnished by the association of the word with the strip joint."

"Suppose the "Tiffany" restaurant in our first hypothetical example is located in Kuala Lumpur and though the people who patronize it (it is upscale) have heard of the Tiffany jewelry store, none of them is ever going to buy anything there, so that the efficacy of the trademark as an identifier will not be impaired. If appropriation of Tiffany's aura is nevertheless forbidden by an expansive concept of dilution, the benefits of the jewelry store's investment in creating a famous name will be, as economists say, "internalized" — that is, Tiffany will realize the full benefits of the investment rather than sharing those benefits with others — and as a result the amount of investing in creating a prestigious name will rise."

Ty v. Perryman, 306 F.3d 509 (7th. Cir. 2002), accessed at

Posted by AnonymousCoward | May 24, 2008 7:20 AM

To #33. Santa Cruz Rollergirls also stole the logo they are using...and did not modify it at all. Look in the Library of Congress under rollergirl logo. Their owner also stole the other logo she's using to sell skates: Yo!Skates. This is a direct rip off from MTV's Yo!Raps. This is a pattern with her and many others. In this case, she's too drunk and lazy to even try to come up with her own ideas or do anything on her own.

Posted by disgusted | May 24, 2008 7:22 AM

I just asked my 3 1/2 year old if he was confused by the two logos, and he said no. He correctly identified the Starbucks logo and said the RCR logo was not the same thing. He was very sure of this.

So I guess that Starbucks is trying to protect themselves from confused kids under 3 1/2 that might walk by themselves into a RCR shop and ask for a double mochachino half-calf...wait, RCR doesn't sell any sort of coffee beverages.

Problem solved.

Posted by valvashon | May 24, 2008 8:48 AM

Ummm.....NO! Not even close Starbucks. Just because it's round doesn't make it yours. This is a no brainer, Starbucks can get fucked. BTW, I may be biased, I've worked with thr RCRG before, and EGO who designed the logo, but still this is not even an issue. BS on Starfucks all the way.

Posted by Gabe | May 24, 2008 8:50 AM

Too bad Psycho Betty's coffee shop isn't around anymore. Their logo looked nothing like this, but featured a hot chick with a big french knife holding the Starbuck lady's head aloft, dripping blood. THAT one was good:)

Posted by Gabe | May 24, 2008 8:54 AM

The Irony is that the starbucks logo is also a rip off:

Posted by orangekrush | May 24, 2008 10:55 AM

If you think the only similarity between these two logos is that they are "round" or they have "stars inside of a circle" you really have to be kidding yourself.

#8 seems to be the only one with a clue.

Posted by w7ngman | May 24, 2008 11:01 AM

This makes me think of all the 100's of leagues that have their logos inspired by RCRG's.

Posted by godsactionfigure | May 24, 2008 12:25 PM

#44, this is the 9th Circuit so likelihood of confusion is the test for trademark infringement, and Sleekcraft is controlling (599 F.2d 341).

Dilution, either by blurring or by tarnishment, is not as strong of a claim as infringement, especially since the mark is registered. The burden of proof and potential damage awards are more favorable to Starbucks for an infringement claim than for dilution. And free-riding is purely a state claim.

In the examples you quote, the junior user's mark is identical to the famous mark. That clearly is not the situation w/ Rat City's logo. Besides, parody is permissible if the goods are non-competing--coffee and roller derby are non-competing goods.

Posted by California | May 24, 2008 1:07 PM

Wonder if Howard paid the Melville estate anything for stealing Starbucks' name? Or does eminent domain (public domain?) pertain here?

Does anyone seriously think anyone will confuse Roller Derby girls with that expensive dessert-in-a-cup joint because of similar logos?

Posted by CALL ME HOWARD...ISHMAEL HERE | May 24, 2008 2:14 PM

@50: I have done a lot of work as a graphic artist, living in B'town lots of it has been military. Starfucks does not have a copyright on round seals with stars, nor does the United States Navy. BS on that crap, but thanks for trying.

Posted by Gabe | May 24, 2008 2:43 PM

mmbb @ 43, if you find odd compulsions to research bullshit charming, you should spent more time loitering around graduate students (or not, as not all of our common character quirks are quite as endearing).

as an added comment - yes, there's a black ring with white lettering, broken up by stars. which, as has been noted by myself and others, is hardly a unique motif, particularly to roller derby. if we were all somehow rendered illiterate, and presented only with this ring, without context, i doubt a single one of us would be able to link it to a brand identity.

the features that ARE immediately recognizable (the mermaid and the rollergirl) could not be more different. one is rendered in negative space. the other is not. the stylistic approaches are very different. one is a stupid reference to a fairytale about self-sacrifice for romantic love. the other is a cartoon chick with a shiner.

and #45, i'm guessing you meant me at 32, instead of 33. so, one of a list of derby logos that use similar motifs to rcrg is a rip off of a logo that is totally unrelated to starbucks, but also uses similar motifs to the starbucks logo. i'm not sure if you're agreeing with my point, disagreeing with it, or you just hate the santa cruz girls.

Posted by Chloe | May 24, 2008 8:56 PM

And... the RCR girl looks like she could easily kick the mermaid's ass.

Posted by Fifi | May 24, 2008 10:55 PM

How dare RCRG violently steal the geometric shape known as the circle from the owners of it, Starbucks! That's theft!

Posted by Starbucks, Inc | May 25, 2008 6:06 AM

I'd like a nice big cup of go fuck yourself, Starbucks (it'd sure be a lot better than your overpriced coffee)

Posted by Mr. X | May 25, 2008 10:24 AM

I don't know the origins, but if RCRG did indeed copy the Starbucks logo, I would see it as nothing more than a nod to having the same hometown as the coffee giant. Nothing confusing or offensive.

Additionally, we covered Fair Use and Parody law in a communications class I took, it seemed that one of the most important factors in the lawsuit was the parody's effect on the original's value. Would anyone be able to argue that Starbucks sells less coffee because a roller derby league has a similar logo?

Posted by Nellie | May 25, 2008 11:12 AM

May I respectfully request that Starbucks please cease litigation against the Rat City Rollergirls and go after the true originators of the concentric circle logo design ~~ ALIENS!

Posted by Talulah Whisker | May 25, 2008 1:53 PM

I read this article in the paper version of The Stranger, and in that article someone from Starbucks was quoted as saying, (paraphrase)"Because the Starbucks logo is so famous, use of the Sans Serif text, circles, and stars is infringement."

I'm writing an email to Starbucks right now. Essentially telling them off. I've even defended these bastards on the Seattle-PI opinion forums. I worked for them for a year and a half. Fuckers. Not stepping foot in their stores again unless they call this off.

Seriously: After working for them and shopping at their store for over a decade, and going to RCRG for the last season and a half, I never saw the RCRG logo and thought "Starbucks". You'd think it would have....

Posted by Mike Gilson | May 29, 2008 9:41 AM

This is the last straw, Starbucks. The only thing you will get from me is what I leave when I need to use the bathroom.

Posted by KidsatthePool | May 30, 2008 10:20 AM

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