BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – Several weeks after its Unicorn Frappuccino took social media by storm, Starbucks faces a federal trademark complaint from a Williamsburg cafe with its own frothy, pink concoction.
The End Brooklyn has been in business on Metropolitan Avenue for just under a year and says it has been selling its popular Unicorn Lattes since December. Despite what its name suggests, the Unicorn Latte is a blended health-food beverage that contains neither coffee nor milk.
It is made with cold-pressed ginger, lemon juice, dates and cashews, and blended with “superfood” powders like maca root, blue-green algae and vanilla bean.
Despite the lack of common ingredients with the Unicorn Frap at Starbucks, a diagram of the two brightly colored drinks in The End’s May 3 complaint shows that several parallels.
Though the End’s drink has been featured in a variety of traditional and online media outlets, including The New York Times and Instagram, it says Starbucks was able to use its dominant market share to make the Unicorn Frappuccino a viral sensation.
Claiming that customers assume its product is a knockoff, The End asserts that publications have even begun referring to the Starbucks drink as a latte, relegating The End’s product to also-ran status.
Attorneys for the cafe sent Starbucks a cease-and-desist letter on April 24, 2017, but it says the damage to its brand is already done.
“Starbucks’ ill-gotten gains will have been achieved through unlawful means that have already caused and will continue to cause irreparable harm to Plaintiffs’ intellectual property and harm the goodwill that had been accomplished through ingenuity and hard work,” the complaint states.
The End seeks an injunction and unnamed damages, alleging five counts of trademark infringement and dilution. It is represented by Joshua Schiller at Boies Schiller Flexner.
Starbucks spokesperson Jarryd Boyd said the company is aware of the lawsuit and called the claims meritless. “The Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino blended beverage was inspired by the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media,” Boyd added.
As of publishing, the Instagram hashtag #unicornfrappuccino has been tagged nearly 160,000 posts, showing off the pink, fuchsia and blue hues of the Starbucks drink.
Aside from the color additives, and pinches of fruit juice concentrate, the Starbucks beverage has similar ingredients to its other milk-based coffee drinks.