From the often drama-filled world of intellectual property and specialty coffee branding, we’ve been working for the last week on a story concerning two very different cafes with, ahem, shall we say “observationally not dissimilar” brand identities.
The Red E Cafe in Portland, Oregon has been open for business since 2009. They’re a microroaster with two retail locations — their original flagship in North Portland on Killingsworth, and a second location in the Pearl District that opened in April 2012 (we covered that opening here). Full disclosure: Sprudge.com co-hosted a massive party with The Red E during USBC 2012, and Sprudge co-founder Zachary Carlsen has worked guest shifts at the Pearl District location.
Ready Coffee in Chicago, Illinois is a brand new cafe in the Wicker Park neighborhood. it was until very recently known in its social media and web presence as “Red E Coffee”. A “Red E” Facebook page has been changed to “Ready”, and their original Twitter presence has been shut down. Their brand URL is still “RedECoffee.com“, and their homepage contains both usages of the branding, both “Ready” and “Red E.” The logo that adorns their cafe in Wicker Park – a glowing neon “e” – looks strikingly similar to a glowing “e” that has graced the front doorway of Red E Cafe’s flagship store on Killingsworth since 2009.
A text banner on the bottom of Red E Coffee Chicago’s website main page contains the following statement: “Red E Coffee takes responsibility for its business practices and the impact of those activities on customers, employees, the community, and the environment.” Let’s have a look at what these two social media presences looked like prior to the “Ready” name change:
Over the last week, Your Sprudge Editors have been in contact with the ownership at Red E Cafe PDX, as well as their legal representation. We’ve also repeatedly attempted to contact the ownership at Red E / Ready Coffee Chicago, who provided us the following brief statement last Friday via Facebook:
The “plan that works for all” seems to have meant the change from “Red E Coffee” to “Ready Coffee”, although the shop’s URL, branding, and glowing neon “e” all remain in place. Requests for further comment have not been answered, although we’ve learned through the PDX cafe’s lawyer that Red E Coffee Chicago has offered up their URL -“RedECoffee.com” – for the modest sum of $100,000.
Here’s our three takeaways from this story:
2. Small businesses need to protect their trademark and brand identity. It might seem like a lot of money to pay up front, but if this situation could happen to The Red E Cafe in Portland, it could happen anywhere. This is not some backwoods coffee shop; Red E PDX and its owners, Keith Miller and Mindy Farley, have been featured by People Magazine, the New York Times, and MTV, among others. Look for new locations of “Handsomely Coffee Roasters” and “Port Hole A Coffee Lab” to open in Chicago next week.
3. Good lawyers are very, very helpful. Everyone loves to hate lawyers, until you really need one, and then they’re the best allies money can buy. The Red E PDX has a good lawyer, and they’ll come out of this thing alright in the end.
Meanwhile, the ongoing personal identity trademark litigation between Red E Cafe PDX owner Keith Miller and famed record producer Rick Rubin is headed to Federal Circuit court. Developing…