Starbucks barks at Algonquin dog day care

ALGONQUIN – A local dog day care that's been asked by Starbucks to change its name, logo and website URL thinks the coffee corporation is barking up the wrong tree.

Starbarks Dog Daycare of Algonquin received the request in April in a letter from Anessa Owen Kramer of Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn LLP, which represents Starbucks Corp. in intellectual matters.

Kramer wrote that Starbucks Corp. requests Starbarks cease and desist use of the term Starbarks as a business name, amend the Starbarks Dog Inc. entity name with the state of Illinois, discontinue use of the domain name StarbarksDog.com, and cease and desist all use of the current Starbarks logo.

To this point, no legal action has been taken.

Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said Wednesday that the two sides are in talks and "we're striving to reach an amicable solution." He said he didn't have "any details to share" about what the next step would be should Starbarks not make changes that satisfy the coffee retailers' requests.

"We're in discussions with them and we want to work with them," Hutson said.

Andrea McCarthy-Grzybek, owner of Starbarks, which opened in March, said she previously responded to the letter by offering to change the background of the logo to yellow and the stars – which, similar to the Starbucks logo, are at either side of the circular emblem – to paws. She said the offer was declined.

Starbarks Dog Daycare is a canine day care and boarding facility with a focus on providing dogs a home-like atmosphere. Last week, McCarthy-Grzybek put a sign on her building at 220 N. Main St., Algonquin, notifying passers-by of the situation.

"The coffee giant wants us to change our name and logo," the sign reads. "Voice your opinion on Facebook @ Starbarks Dog Inc."

A Sept. 18 post about the situation on the business's Facebook page garnered 38 comments, many of which express disappointment that Starbucks would come after a small business.

Starbucks said it wasn't out to hurt a small business but wanted to protect its universally recognized brand.

"We've made significant investments to develop our brand and property for the last 41 years, and we have a legal obligation to protect from infringement in order to obtain our exclusive rights to it," he said.

Hutson did not comment on another concern written into the letter from Kramer, that use of Starbucks trademarks "is likely to cause confusion among consumers, who may mistakenly assume that Starbarks is authorized by or affiliated with Starbucks Corporation."

McCarthy-Grzybek takes issue with that point.

"I've never had anyone come in here and ask for a cup of coffee," she said.

Still, because of the threat of legal expenses associated with a potential loss in court should Starbucks pursue a lawsuit, McCarthy-Grzybek said she likely will make the changes to her business to satisfy the requests.

But she pointed out there's a cost associated with that route, as well – re-registering the incorporation's name, changing the website and updating marketing materials.

"It's probably what we're leaning towards – changing it," McCarthy-Grzybek said. "But it's a big, huge financial burden. What do I have, six dogs running around here? It's not like I have 40 dogs running around. It's not like I'm making any money. I'm paying for my property here."

An Internet search turns up a handful of other Starbarks businesses in the country, a fact McCarthy-Grzybek said she was aware of when she named her business.

Hutson said Starbucks has sent letters to other business named Starbarks, and that "several have agreed to change their name and logo."

A webpage at www.starbarksaz.com links to a site for a Phoenix, Ariz., dog hotel named Canine Village, and reads in part, "Due to a conflict with a very famous coffee company our previous name (which we cannot mention) had to be changed to Canine Village only."

McCarthy-Grzybek hasn't decided what she'd call her business next.

"I have pages of names," she said.

Starbarks Dog Daycare:
What: A canine daycare and boarding facility with a focus on providing dogs a home-like atmosphere.
Where: 220 N. Main St., Algonquin
More info: call 847-458-2220 or visit www.starbarksdog.com