Sometimes, the scarcity of a product is its greatest appeal. The McRib and Shamrock Shake became legendary items on McDonald’s menu because the offerings appear for a brief time and then disappear.
Starbucks recently created their own product of mythical proportions and appropriately named it after a mythical being. The beverage immediately gained popularity, trending on social media and capturing the imagination of consumers and the media.
Introduced in April as a limited-time drink, the Unicorn Frappuccino was touted by the coffee giant as “flavor-changing, color-changing,” and “totally not-made-up.”
A New York City café of lesser renowned begs to differ. The End Brooklyn is challenging Starbucks in a legal battle of beverages named after the single-horned beasts.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court, the coffee house accuses Starbucks of trademark infringement over the Unicorn Frappuccino. The End claims that the recently introduced, color-changing beverage overshadows their Unicorn Latte, a drink that enjoyed its own social media spotlight following its December introduction.
Besides the appearance, the similarity between the drinks begins and ends with neither containing coffee. The End’s Unicorn Latte is made with dates, ginger root, cashews, blended with “healthy” dried maca root, vanilla bean, and blue-green algae. The Unicorn Frappuccino has two ingredients: milk and artificial sweetener.
Montauk Juice Factory, the cafés parent company, claims that they developed the Unicorn Latté to become a well-known and highly valuable trademark. They take issue with the size and scope of Starbuck’s product launch, if not the name and appearance of the product (brightly colored with prominent blues and pinks) designed to deliberately overshadow theirs.
Starbucks believes that the claim lacks merit. Their Unicorn Frappuccino was “inspired by the fun, spirited and colorful unicorn-themed food and drinks that have been trending in social media.” In their formal statement, they also add that the drink is no longer available.
The Williamsburg neighborhood café seeks unspecified compensation and a public apology.