Mike’s Coffee Shop of Attleboro, Massachusetts recently received the ire of the popular global franchise Dunkin’ Donuts who hit Mike’s with a cease and desist letter based on alleged trademark infringement. The caffeinated donut giant was perturbed by the family owned and operated business’ use of a slogan that Dunkin’ Donuts felt infringed on their “America runs on Dunkin’” tag line.
Apparently Mike’s Coffee Shop had painted their front window with removable, decorative paint: “North now runs on Mike’s” their own take on the familiar slogan. “North” of course was a nod to the location of the shop near North Attleboro. According the owner, a customer had dropped the line after ordering a cup of coffee a few weeks prior and the owners liked the jab. Dunkin’ Donuts had previously rented the building that houses Mike’s, which has been owned by the same family that runs the coffee shop for generations. The Dunkin’ Donuts rationale:
“Your actions are clearly designed to trade on the goodwill and reputation associated with the America Runs on Dunkin’ trademark and constitutes both trademark infringement and trademark dilution.”
Mike’s immediately removed the allegedly infringing slogan from the window, as any savvy business owner might do when faced with legal action for using such an obviously similar line. However, Mike’s didn’t give up completely! Soon after Mike’s repainted the window with a new twist on the familiar tag: “North now powered by Mike’s.”
In the end, a few questions remain: Why would a worldwide conglomerate be threatened by a merely similar, but not identical slogan of a single unit local coffee shop written in temporary paint? Why would Dunkin’ Donuts-which originated in nearby Quincy Massachusetts 67 years ago- think its customers would be confused by a slogan that was clearly intended in jest? And finally, will they continue fighting the mom & pop shop for use of the further altered, but clearly similar phrase? Hopefully Dunkin’ Donuts being persnickety will end up being good for Mike’s business.