Whether Dumb Starbucks Is A PR Stunt, A Joke Or Real... Its 'Parody' Claims Are Pretty Questionable
from the and-undermined-by-its-own-statements dept
That said, the operators of the coffee shop are claiming that it's okay to do this because it's a parody, as they explain in this FAQ:
Is this a Starbucks?That's all very interesting, but looks more like it was written by someone mocking the concept of fair use rather than by anyone with a legal understanding of fair use. Beyond confusing copyrights and trademarks (both of which do have a fair use doctrine, though they're somewhat different), by more or less admitting that they're only doing this as a cover to be able to use Starbucks' name, rather than as legitimate social commentary, they're basically giving up their fair use defense. Not that it wouldn't make an interesting case. As a big supporter of fair use, it's still a little worrying when people pretend it allows for things that it almost certainly doesn't allow for, as that leads to a cheapening of the concept of fair use.
No. Dumb Starbucks is not affiliated in any way with Starbucks Corporation. We are simply using their name and logo for marketing purposes.
How is that legal?
Short answer - parody law.
Can you elaborate?
Of course. By adding the word 'dumb', we are technically "making fun" of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as 'fair use'. Fair use is a doctrine that permits use of copyrighted material in a parodical work without permission form the rights holder. It's the same law that allows Weird Al Yankovic to use the music from Michael Jackson's "Beat It" in his parody song "Eat It".
So is this a real business?
Yes it is. Although we are a fully function coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our "coffee shop" is actually an art gallery and the "coffee" you're buying is considered art. But that for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!
Are you saying Starbucks is dumb?
Not at all. In fact, we love Starbucks and look up to them as role models. Unfortunately, the only way to use their intellectual property under fair use is if we are making fun of them. So the "dumb" comes out of necessity, not enmity.
Still, chances are this is all a prank that will be revealed shortly (perhaps by the time I get this post finally written, edited and posted...) and so the actual legal questions concerning whether this is parody will never be tested. However, it does make me wonder about ways that someone could legitimately use fair use within a retail setting to mock a rival.