Coffee company in legal battle with Starbucks over siren trademark

The owners of an online coffee company based out of Livingston Parish, Louisiana have found themselves in a legal trademark battle with the coffee giant Starbucks.
Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 7:35 AM CDT
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LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. (WAFB/Gray News) - The owners of an online coffee company have found themselves in a legal trademark battle with the coffee giant Starbucks, WAFB reports.

It has to do with the company’s name, Siren’s Brew Coffee Co.

Sarah Hamilton is the co-owner of Mountains & Mermaids, a nautical-themed apparel brand for fans across the world. She also owns Siren’s Brew Coffee Co., a coffee company born under the Mountains & Mermaids brand.

She packs all the orders from a building behind their home with the help of her mom and co-owner of the brand, Monica Hamilton. The pair started the company together in 2017.

“We were living in Florida, and I grew up in Alaska, so I missed the mountains, but we were living by the beach, and I wanted to write a blog called Mountains and Mermaids. And we moved back to Alaska and decided to take that brand name and turn it into a brand,” Sarah Hamilton said.

As a former barista, Sarah Hamilton said she knew she wanted to somehow incorporate coffee into the new company years ago.

“And we came out with the Siren’s Brew design, and people asked ‘Well, are you going to carry coffee?’ and that’s what we did and we started carrying coffee. And that’s when we got into our mess with Starbucks,” Sarah Hamilton said.

Starbucks took the legal route claiming the mom and daughter team can’t use the siren name and even the logo, and associate it with coffee, even if the Siren’s Brew design does not look similar to the Starbucks mermaid design for the logo.

“And so, they basically felt like they have common law rights in conjunction with the word coffee because they’re Starbucks,” Sarah Hamilton said.

This has been an ongoing legal fight for about four years now for the small business. Just when they thought they were in the clear, Starbucks hit them with even more lawsuits over the trademark.

“And not only did they oppose our trademark, but they also opposed it for our clothing. So, we had one for our clothing, one for the coffee, and they opposed both of those. So we joined the cases together. We won the clothing, but we didn’t win the coffee,” Monica Hamilton said.

The ruling was made just a few months back, absolutely crushing the small business owners.

“A lot of small businesses didn’t make it through COVID, and we did. And then to get slapped again, it’s hard,” Monica Hamilton said.

The women describe their fight as something similar to David versus Goliath, with most of their proceeds from coffee and apparel sales now going towards their legal bills.

They said they will continue to fight to do what they love and protect that valuable trademark.

“I mean, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Starbucks, Nike, Dunkin, whatever, small businesses should also have the right to protect their brand as much as anybody else,” Sarah Hamilton said.

She claims she filed the trademark for her company’s name that included the word siren before Starbucks did.

The ladies will continue to sell their coffee while they challenge the ruling, and business isn’t slowing down. They sold around 300 pounds of coffee online just last month alone.

“Starbucks respects the rights of other intellectual property holders and will take appropriate action when necessary to protect its own intellectual property rights,” a spokesperson for Starbucks told WAFB. “We are pleased with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s decision finding that SIREN’S BREW is confusingly similar to Starbucks’ rights in SIREN for coffee. Siren’s Blend is a coffee blend named after the Siren that symbolizes Starbucks. This coffee was inspired - and created - by trailblazing women of the coffee industry and honors the innovations of such women in coffee, from farmer to roaster to barista.”