California Bakery To Relinquish ‘Mochi Muffin’ Trademark After Public Backlash

from the mochi-for-all dept

Funny what a little public shaming can accomplish. It was merely a week or so ago that we were discussing one bakery in California threatening other bakeries for using the term “mochi muffin”, for which the USPTO had somehow granted it a trademark. If you didn’t read the last post and need a quick recap of why this trademark being granted was stupid, “mochi” is merely the name of a rice paste used commonly in Japan around holidays. It’s used to make lots of stuff. A “mochi muffin” is merely a muffin made of mochi, making the trademarked term entirely descriptive. The kind of thing you’re not supposed to be able to trademark.

Well, at the culmination of that last post, I mentioned that there was a decent sized online backlash to all of this. I also mentioned that someone would likely go the legal route to invalidate the trademark at some point. The latter, it seems, won’t occur, because now Third Culture Bakery says it’s going to give the trademark up voluntarily after hearing from the public.

In a social media announcement on Saturday, co-owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu called the trademark a “huge oversight” that “ended up being hurtful.”

They said they’ve taken the first steps necessary to release ownership of the trademark, and won’t pursue any trademarks in the future. It’s a major reversal of their position just a few weeks ago, when they described the trademark as an important legal protection for their business. Third Culture secured the trademark in 2018 and has sent cease-and-desist letters to bakeries across the country to demand they stop using the words “mochi muffin.”

Reading between the lines, it’s pretty clear what happened here. The bakery tried to legally threaten other bakeries, got found out by the public, the public got angry, and now the bakery is reversing course. So, while I won’t be pinning any medals on Third Culture for this, this does once again show how public outrage and shaming can, often times, produce better or faster results than going the legal route.

While some of the public backlash was of a variety I wouldn’t condone — such as supposedly harassing phone calls made to its employees while at work — most of it was exactly what you’d expect and want. Angry reviews on Yelp. Notes left on the bakeries social media pages. Other social media groups built up to fight Third Culture’s threats.

Even Third Culture claims that much of the feedback it got was of the constructive type.

Their decision to relinquish the trademark was the result of “thoughtful, meaningful, and constructive emails and notes and letters” received after a Chronicle article detailing the trademark was published two weeks ago. The feedback “guided us to reevaluate what once was absolutely necessary for our survival, but does not serve us anymore,” Butarbutar and Shyu wrote.

Again, this is clearly also Third Culture trying to work the refs that are the public it serves, but the point stands. Activism of this sort works. We need more of it.

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Companies: third culture bakery

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Comments on “California Bakery To Relinquish ‘Mochi Muffin’ Trademark After Public Backlash”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

And sadly none of the outrage will carry over to USPTO where it belongs.

It never should have been granted in the first place, so how in the actual fuck did people sign off on it?

Where is the report on how the hell the system failed & what changes have been made to avoid this happening yet again.

IP is supposed to be so important and my FSM they keep fucking it up.

Rounded rectangles, ideas with ‘on a computer’, multiple patents on PB&J, trademarks on crap.

Once upon a time the system was to protect novel ideas, now any asshole with some common cultural thing can grab control of the entire market. (You say poké I say stuff in a bowl thats existed for centuries)

They system has been weaponized to lock in customers, forcing them to use only approved parts only sold by 1 source for a huge markup because… its not like they can go elsewhere.
While that might improve the life of a couple execs, these same execs were threatening to sue people 3d printing parts in the middle of a pandemic that were needed to actually save lives & the companies had no parts to offer.

There is an entire ecosystem in East Texas of cockroaches bleeding anyone they can claim, without bursting out laughing, is infringing on a patent for thing that isn’t remotely anything like the thing they are suing over and they can still win millions.

Some people need insulin to remain alive, yet somehow the price keeps going up in lockstep for the 3 companies producing it… people are dying because something cheap to make has a price set by assholes with IP rights who know those people have 2 options… pay us or die, we don’t care if you die so just pay up.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’ve always suspected that the people in charge of these approvals give their stamps on a few stupid, silly and irresponsible applications for shits and giggles. Mostly because they don’t have to pay for their mistakes, or fear being penalized for them.

Seriously, though, IP enforcement-related jobs have to have one of the most lenient standards. Imagine working any other job, at the rates where IP enforcers fuck up.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: approved

Well that is where the problem is…
a bunch of assholes complained to their congress people about it taking far to long to get their applications approved.
Rather than hire more people, they changed the rules meaning you can’t even google the damn thing to see if its common.
Lo and behold it was a brave new world of shit things getting approved, then lawsuits, then media coverage, but IP is so important we can’t do anything that might slow it down… like make sure its not just yet another PB&J Patent.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No no no they were rectangles with rounded corners for icons on a screen.
Actual lawsuit against Apple (iirc).
There is a patent on rounded corner rectangles used on displays… what in the holy fuck makes this an innovation worthy of patent protecting for a NPE who makes nothing, does nothing but sue, and extra cash because they got their hands on a shitty worthless patent.

Monica Chandler says:

Snowballing lies

they claim they didn’t sue anyone, but their suing Stella and Mochi is public knowledge with the documented case easily found on google. Across twitter and reddit, there are reports of wage thefts and “glee” from the owners when they sent out cease and desists (or rather, their own CFO sent out the letters). Truly all they needed to do was really apologize, but instead chose to be snarky, victimize themselves, and attack the SFC reporter in their Instagram stories. Sad. PS: Their website still advertises “MOCHI MUFFIN” with the (R) trademark symbol. Only time will tell if they’re truly sorry and will change their bullying ways.

Rachel Ross says:

Re: TCB is Backpedaling

Well said! They are just backpedaling, and insincerely might I add. They claimed that they had to trademark mochi muffins to protect themselves. However, they also attempted to trademark 1) butter mochi donut 2) mochi brownie 3) matcha sparkler 4) moffin and more. It is apparent that the only reason why they went down the pathway of trademarking was so that they could block other bakeries from making similar products in an attempt to own the mochi baked goods market. Otherwise, they would have filed the trademark and then sent only 1 cease and desist letter DIRECTLY to the business that they were originally trying to protect themselves from. Instead, they sent cease and desist letters to multiple businesses across the U.S. That is not protecting your business, that is targeting and destroying other business without provocation. This is the most enraging part about TCB’s insecurity and delusion, their marked effort to target small business that could not afford to defend themselves. These businesses have had to acquiesce and change their product name from mochi muffin to something else like mochi cake which is confusing to their customers and community. Imagine having to rename your ravioli dish and call it gnochhi instead. That kind of customer confusion monetarily impacts these small businesses negatively, and TCB does not acknowledge that at all. Instead they play the victim, a chapter out of the narcissistic playbook. Pitiful. Absolutely pitiful. I echo other comments that state that TCB has not removed their trademark from their site or their social media content. Also, they continue to claim that they invented mochi muffins, that it is their original concept. That is completely false, untrue, ludicrous, and asinine. As long as TCB continues to craft an ownership narrative around mochi muffins, we in the Asian community will keep telling the truth of mochi’s TRUE origin in an effort to respect those who sacrificed and paved the way for our current Asian-American opportunities in the U.S.

Anonymous Coward says:

The worse patents are patents that are like do this obvious thing on a computer connected the the Web or do obvious thing on a mobile device eg obvious thing is a process or method simple program used by programmers since pcs were invented these are used to get money from small startups who can’t afford to spend a million dollars going to court
At least apple has the money to protect itself from bullshit patents
Car makers patent the shape of basic parts this allows them to charge 59 dollars for a part that should cost 20 dollars they will patent they shape of a door just to stop other car company’s making it

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