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A tale of two unicorn-themed coffee drinks

There are too many unicorns on the streets of New York these days. One too many at least, according to The End coffee shop in Brooklyn.

The problem unicorn is Starbuck's limited edition Unicorn Frappuccino, a bright pink and blue frothy frappe that was only available in April. When it created the brightly colored beverage, Starbucks was trying to be relevant. The blended drink "was inspired by the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media."

What about the creators of the trendy drinks that "inspired" Starbucks? Wouldn't they have copyright or trademark rights? 

According to Reuters, the End and its owner, Montauk Juice Factory, think so. They claim to have a registered trademark for their own bright blue and pink coffee drink, the Unicorn Latte, which they filed on Jan. 20.

The Unicorn Latte was created last year and began selling in December. It really began to take off in January, which prompted the owners to file a trademark application. It's such a big seller that it has made up about a quarter of The End's sales since it was launched. It might even have trended on social media.

The creators of the Unicorn Latte have now sued Starbucks for marketing a product so similar in appearance and name that it may create confusion in the marketplace. They think the coffee giant should be "held accountable for infringing, diluting and otherwise diminishing" the value of their intellectual property.

They are asking a judge to order Starbucks to cough up their ill-gotten gains from the copycat drink and to reimburse The End and Montauk for any losses they incurred as a result of the trademark infringement.

In the past, it might have been obvious that one company copying another company's successful product was trademark infringement, or at least problematic. In the Internet age, many people seem to forget that the Web isn't free space. Moreover, a kicky trend may very well be the result of hard work and advertising.

Starbucks says it believes the Trademark suit to be without merit.

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