The Korean Times reports that Starbucks has lost a trade mark suit in South Korea. The Patent Court has ruled that Elpreya’s STARPREYA trade mark should not be cancelled. Both the Starbucks logo and Elpreya’s logo are circular, with a green border containing white writing and two stars. In Elpreya’s case, the writing reads STARPREYA instead of STARBUCKS. Both also contain a mythical-looking figure in their centres, though the Elpreya picture is more classic, while Starbucks’ is heavily stylised.

The court ruled that:

* the words looked different
* Star is commonly used in trade marks and so wasn’t distinctive
* Neither ‘preya’ nor ‘bucks’ had any special meaning, and so consumers would be unlikely to separate the trade marks into their constituent elements, referring to both sometimes as ‘Star’
*There was no evidence that Elpreya had ‘plagiarised’ Starbuck’s logo

The IPKat doesn’t find this particularly convincing. True, if you analyse each element of the two logos bit by bit it’s possible to highlight many differences between them, but our good friend the moron (or should that be commuter?) in a hurry will just take a quick glance and will be confronted with two logos of green rims containing white writing and a picture in the middle.
SOUTH KOREA BUCKS THE TREND SOUTH KOREA BUCKS THE TREND Reviewed by Unknown on Thursday, October 12, 2006 Rating: 5


  1. Yes, I'd agree. As a consumer I'd assume some economic linkage, even if I was aware of the forensic differences.

  2. no likelihood of consumer confusion. i would rather say that its owner attempts to derive unfair benefit from the use of the starpreya logo

  3. These marks will be confused by almost any standard worldwide. However, I understand that the South Korean courts have a habit of finding against non-korean companies so the result seems unsurprising.

  4. I hate to say, but this is unsurprising. KIPO examiners and Korean courts usually take a very strict interpretation of each individual element. Circle, Writing, Stars, Black/white/green all non-distinct. More interesting perhaps is the way KIPO really takes words such as "Star" as non-distinct as they can describe a best quality product (which really amuses me since the Korean brand Samsung literally means "three stars").

    As for the anti-foreign angle, it cannot be ruled out quickly, but I got some food for thought. Starbucks Korea is half owned by the Korean conglomerate Shinsaegae (which is distantly related to Samsung). The US branch only gets about 4% of gross sales in Korea. Effectively it is a Korean operation owned by a major Chaebol. They had some pretty big guns on this ("connections") somehow I guarantee you.

    Finally I wonder how all of this will effect the "juicy" bar (a place of ill repute let us say) prominent in the foreigner area of Seoul named "Starbutts".


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