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Starbucks sues tiny indigenous-owned coffeeshop for "trademark infringement"

Three years ago, Darin Swanson and his partners christened their HaidaBucks cafe. Now the coffee shop in the Queen Charlotte Islands (British Columbia, Canada) is being sued by the Starbucks company, which says the name is too familiar to their own. "I guess they have a problem with the word 'bucks' in our name. They're letting us use the word Haida -- nice of them," Swanson said. Swanson and his partners -- all members of the Haida Nation -- insist they have aboriginal rights to the name and will not be ground down. Swanson had never set foot in a Starbucks coffee shop.
HaidaBucks Continues Its Defense Against Starbucks®

The support for HaidaBucks, a small, indigenous-owned café on Haida Gwaii, continued to mount in the second week following news reports that it was being sued by Starbucks® for trademark infringement.

HaidaBucks has secured the services of noted counselor Joseph Arvay, of Arvay and Finlay, Barristers, to represent them. This is not the first time Mr. Arvay has worked with Canada's indigenous peoples. He represented Delgamuukw before the Supreme Court of Canada and is now counsel for the Haida Nation in their aboriginal title claim.

In the past week, Starbucks has attempted to settle the matter quickly, perhaps due to the strong outpouring of support HaidaBucks has received. This past week, they offered to give the small café until the end of the year to change its name, and to "reimburse HaidaBucks for some portion of the reasonable costs associated with changing its trademark."

Darin Swanson, co-owner of HaidaBucks stated that they will not comply. "We've been using the term "bucks" in our Nation for far longer than Starbucks has," said Swanson. "I played on a Massett basketball team with that name. We use the term "bucks" to refer to young men. They're not just telling us to change our name, they're telling us to give up our pride in ourselves and our heritage."

HaidaBucks also points out that their logo was created by world-renowned Native artist Jim Hart of Old Masset. "From the very beginning," said Swanson, "this has been about pride in ourselves and our Nation. We are Haida bucks; it only makes sense that we named our business after ourselves."

Swanson also noted that the HaidaBucks web site - - received slightly more than 40,000 visitors in the week ending Friday, May 2, 2003. "We're now approaching the 100,000 visitor mark," said Swanson. "We hope to pass that this week, and reach 150,000 in the first full month of operations." He also added that they are updating the site weekly to keep supporters informed of the latest activity.

HaidaBucks was founded in May, 1999, by three members of the Haida Nation and one non-Haida with a Haida family. Located in the village of Masset (on Haida Gwaii in the Queen Charlotte Islands off the North coast of British Columbia), the café serves salads, soups, and a variety of sandwiches and subs in addition to its line of hot and cold beverages.

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Re: Starbucks sues tiny indigenous-owned coffeeshop for

Haida Nation might want to contact Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law School. He is a lawyer closely involved in issues of copyrite (who has addressed the Sup Court on issues very similar to this) and who is also leading up an organization which is aiming to create new possibilities for copyrite Creative Commons

... he lectures around the country, and was just yesterday at Cooper Union in NYC speaking on copyrite law and how big corporations are precisiely engaged in taking away the ability of folks to use supposedly copyrited material in creative ways...

This is not a pitch, believe me.. just thought it might be helpful to align with what his team is working on.. and think he might be interested..

-- reed in NYC


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