Judge basically says you may now name your business after Starbucks if you’re small and not very successful.

A little New Hampshire coffee roaster that works out of a barn got sued by Starbucks.

Here’s why.

To be honest, there was one time where I mixed up a bear and a mermaid at a college party. (Not really, I’m just being a smart aleck.)
To be honest, there was one time where I mixed up a bear and a mermaid at a college party. (Not really, I’m just being a smart aleck.)

A judge at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says nobody in their right mind would confuse the two products or brands, to paraphrase.

Actually, that’s not much of a paraphrase. Here’s how the judge responded to a survey Starbucks conducted as part of its defense:

A centerpiece of Starbucks’ case had been a phone survey of 600 people by the pollster Warren Mitofsky, which found that “the number one association of the name ‘Charbucks’ in the minds of consumers is with the brand ‘Starbucks.'”

But the 2nd Circuit said the survey was “fundamentally flawed” and drew its conclusions from how consumers thought of “Charbucks” in isolation, not its real-world context.

It said that while 39.5 percent of participants thought of “Starbucks” or “coffee” when asked what came to mind upon hearing “Charbucks,” just 4.4 percent said “Starbucks” or “coffee house” when asked who might sell a “Charbucks” product. “Grocery store” was the most popular answer to that question.

“Viewed in light of Starbucks’ fame,” [Circuit Judge Raymond] Lohier wrote, “the fact that more survey participants did not think of ‘Starbucks’ upon hearing ‘Charbucks’ reinforces the district court’s finding that the marks are only minimally similar.”