Missouri Bar Owner Mocks Starbucks' Cease-and-Desist Letter

No, "Frappicino" is not a beer to be confused with Starbucks coffee.

ByABC News
December 31, 2013, 10:05 AM
Exit 6 Pub and Brewery owner Jeff Britton wrote Starbucks this check after being sent a cease and desist letter from the coffee company.
Exit 6 Pub and Brewery owner Jeff Britton wrote Starbucks this check after being sent a cease and desist letter from the coffee company.
Jeff Britton

Dec. 31, 2013 — -- Jeff Britton, owner of a bar in Missouri, thought it was funny that Starbucks thinks customers might get confused that a "Frappicino" beer would be mistaken for a Frappucino coffee drink. So he responded to the coffee giant with biting humor in a letter that has made the rounds online.

Britton, 40, is owner of Exit 6 Pub and Brewery that seats about 75 people in Cottleville, Mo., about 30 miles west of St. Louis.

Three weeks ago, Britton received a cease-and-desist letter from one of Starbucks' lawyers, Anessa Owen Kramer, who wrote, "It has recently come to Starbucks Coffee Co.'s attention that Exit 6 Pub and Brewery LLC is or was using the mark Frappicino in connection with a stout-style beer crafted by the brewery."

The letter goes on to request that Britton stop using the trademarked term or anything "phonetically identical."

Large companies frequently send cease-and-desist letters whenever there is a hint of trademark infringement. Underwear manufacturer Hanesbrands Inc. sent a letter this month to a Canadian company, Hanes Hummus, saying that customers could be confused between the two.

READ MORE: Underwear Maker Hanesbrands Wages Battle With Canadian Hummus Maker

Britton, who opened the bar two and a half years ago after "hating" working in corporate America for 10 years, said he was tickled by Starbucks' letter. (The name of the business, Exit 6, comes from Britton's "exit plan from corporate America," and his daughter, who was 6-years old at the time.)

"I was kind of just shocked that they were wasting their time and resources on something like this," Britton told ABCNews.com. "I thought it was funny."

Britton said the letter was particularly humorous because he never used the word "Frappicino" in the bar, nor was it ever on its menu of 25 bars on tap, five of which are made by the brewery. He said he believes three patrons simply named the blend when they mentioned the beer on a website, Untapped, in which they "checked in" to the drink. Britton believes that attracted Starbucks' attention.

"We never made a drink called this," he said, explaining that the beverage in question is a blend of one of the bar's most popular beers, a vanilla crème ale, with a splash of coffee stout in it.

"It's delicious, but like I said, it's not something we made. It's just a blend of beers."

In response, Britton wrote Starbucks a letter, addressed to the coffee company's lawyer and "Mr. Bucks."

He wrote in the five paragraph letter, "As you probably don't know, Exit 6 is the proud owner of no trademarks including our own name much less than the name "F Word" and nothing about Exit 6 is incontestable.

"We never thought that our beer drinking customers would have thought that the alcoholic beverage coming out of the tap would have actually been coffee from one of the many, many, many stores located a few blocks away," Britton wrote.

He included a check for $6 written to Starbucks, explaining that he wanted to share the "full amount of profit gained from the sale of those 3 beers."

"We just want to help a business like Starbucks. Us small business owners need to stick together," he wrote.

Laurel Harper, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, said company officials have seen Britton's letter.

"This was a respectful request that they stop using the word Frappicino. No legal action was taken," she said, adding that the company will not deposit his $6 check.

"Just like many business, trademark law requires all companies, including Starbucks, to consistently protect its brand," she said. "We always prefer to resolve trademark disputes informally and amicably whenever possible, and we appreciate Exit 6 Pub and Brewery respecting our request to avoid confusion among customers."

After Gawker and other online sites picked up the story, Britton said the bar added a $5 drink called "F Word" onto its menu last week that included coffee from a nearby local chocolate bar that serves coffee, VanBuskirk.

The drink sold out in three hours and is no longer on the menu.