While the Unicorn Frappuccino has vanished from Starbucks stores, the beverage’s legacy continues in court. A coffee and juice café in Brooklyn claims that it was serving a much healthier brightly colored “Unicorn latte” at the end of last year, and is suing Starbucks for $10 million for trademark infringement.
Both drinks are brightly colored and are named after the imaginary unicorn, but otherwise they aren’t that similar. In its initial complaint [PDF], café The End explains that its unicorn-themed beverage is called a latte but has no coffee, and contains: “cold-pressed ginger, lemon juice, dates, cashews, blended with additional healthy, dried ingredients such as maca root, blue-green algae, and vanilla bean.”
The Starbucks product with the same name was made with a mango-flavored base and pink and blue sugar crystals, topped with whipped cream. No one would ever mistake it for a health drink.
The recipe isn’t the issue here, though: The name is. The business in Brooklyn applied for a trademark on the name back in January after the drink was a hit, and it had been testing and developing the beverage since opening the shop in the spring of 2016.
“At no point prior to developing, marketing, and launching its product did Starbucks approach Plaintiffs for permission to use a name deceptively similar to Unicorn Latte,” The End notes in its lawsuit.
Instead, the business recounts how customers who aren’t familiar with the latte launch assume that The End is copying Starbucks and trying to catch some publicity from the brief social media fame of the Unicorn Frappuccino.
“The damage to Plaintiffs’ trademark and business continues and, to an extent, may well be irreparable,” the complaint adds. The final indignity: Customers walk in and ask for a Unicorn Frappuccino.
Backlash against Starbucks’ drink made things even worse for the fruit drink. “Consumers who would have been interested in the Unicorn Latte because of the health benefits of the beverage now associate it with the unhealthy ingredients of Starbucks’ ‘Unicorn Frappuccino’ and are deterred from trying it,” the juice company notes in its complaint, not offering any proof for this assertion.
However, Starbucks did respond to a cease and desist letter by pointing out that it only marketed its product as a Frappuccino, not a latte, and that it didn’t sell any “unicorn” themed product with actual juice in it.
“We know about the claims and we believe they are without merit,” a spokesman for Starbucks told the New York Post.