In typical Brooklyn fashion, a coffee/juice shop in the borough says it was first on the Unicorn drink scene and arguing it developed, garnered favorable press attention for serving its Unicorn Lattes several months before Starbuck’s unleashed its Unicorn Frappuccino.
The End Brooklyn has filed a federal suit (you can read the complaint here) stating that the healthy drink it created – the Unicorn Latte – received substantial positive press in late 2016 from the New York Times Magazine and then in other news outlets before Starbuck’s launch which was nationwide and meant to eclipse the local shop’s drink. The Brooklyn shop filed for a trademark on Unicorn Latte in January of 2017. The lawsuit alleges consumer confusion, and dilution based on people confusingly calling the Starbuck’s frappuccino drink a “latte” in the media and points out that its drink is anathema to the Starbuck’s variant on account of the use of ingredients – mostly superfoods “embraced by the wellness community.” The real meat of the allegations amount to the tarnishment that the healthy drink’s reputation has suffered at the hands of the Starbuck’s concoction.
This widespread confusion was made worse by the derision and ridicule that Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino encountered upon launch. For example, People Magazine broadly proclaimed that Katy Perry, a world-renowned recording artist and marketing icon, “Spits Out Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino After One Sip.” Likewise, social media posts began appearing that chastised Starbucks for their “Unicorn Latte,” including: “Forget the gross #UnicornLatte from @Starbucks! Try making these for a #healthy treat . . . .” Thus, 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. Customers who would have been drawn to the Unicorn Latte’s popularity on social media including through the #unicornlatte hashtag now associate it with a much larger social media conversation—much of which is critical of the Unicorn Frappuccino and those that post about it.
With the potential penalty of disgorging the profits made from the Starbuck’s drink – a nationwide sensation – the suit may have some serious consequences. If nothing else, the media attention garnered from its filing may help supplant some of the problems cited by the Brooklyn shop looking to ensure its customers don’t think it hopped on the Starbuck’s “unicorn” bandwagon.
But that shouldn’t be a problem – touche’ to both these coastal variants – here in the Midwest, the Unicorn Cafe in Evanston, Illinois has been serving coffee for years before the one horned lattes and frappuccinos were glints in the eyes of their creators and the espresso blend, Unicorn Blood put out by Chicago’s Dark Matter Coffee has a similarly lengthy lineage.