Big Detroit Law Firm vs. Tiny Rural Brewer: See Who You Think Wins

December 30, 2013, 10:13 PM by  Alan Stamm

It seems like an unfair fight.

On one side is a premier Detroit law firm, Honigman Miller, representing a global client with deep pockets -- Starbucks.

In the David role against that Goliath is Jeff Britton of Cottleville, Mo., a former home brewer who two years ago opened Exit 6 Pub and Brewery -- a nanobrewery offering 23 hand-crafted beers.

In a Facebook post the day after Christmas, Britton describes an unusual piece of certified mail from Honigman's suburban office in Bloomfield Hills:

Last week I received a cease and desist letter from the attorneys at Starbucks. Apparently there was a beer on Untappd [a social media site where Exit 6 has a page] that someone named "Frappicino." Three people had checked into said beer. Three.

Starbucks did like that. So I got a letter. They wanted me to remove the beer and promise never to use their names again. They also wanted my written response and guarantee. Here is their letter. And also my response.  

The Missouri beer maker posted scans of Honigman's cease-and-desist demand and his five-paragraph reply (below), which was sent with a $6 check "for the full amount of profit gained from the sale of those three beers." 

In her two-page letter, attorney Anessa Owen Kramer writes:

The FRAPPICINO mark only differs from Starbucks Coffee Co.'s FRAPPUCCINO mark by one letter, and is phoenetically identical. Exit 6's use of this closely similar mark in connection with beer is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception among consumers, who may mistakenly believe that Exit 6 or this beer product is affiliated with or licensed by Starbucks Coffee Co. . . .

Please respond in writing on or before December 23, 2013. 

Britton, whose business slogan is "No Compromise Brewing," shows how to deploy well-chosen words against a vast legal budget. Here's part of what he tells Honigman:

I am writing . . . in regards to the "Frappuccino" (at risk of further lawsuits, heretofore known as "The F Word") beer listed on Untapped. . . . 

The beer with a very similar name to the "F Word" . . . was only similar to the F Word because we meant to call it the same thing. Lucky for us, we're poor spelers. . . .

We meant no deception, confusion or mistaking in the naming of the beer F Word. We never thought that our beer drinking customers would have thought that the alcoholic beverage coming out of the tap would have actually been coffee. . . . I guess that with there being a Starbucks on every corner of every block in every city that some people may think they could get a Starbucks at a local bar. So that was our mistake. . . .

Please apply the enclosed $6.00 towards the legal fees Ms. Owen Kramer received for nabbing Exit 6 on our dastardly F Word naming practices.  

The Facebook post, shared  272 times as of Tuesday afternoon, generates more than 100 supportive comments from near and far -- as well as this TV news coverage in St. Louis: 

The full text of Jeff Britton's letter mailed to Detroit law firm Honigman Miller's branch office in Bloomfield Hills:


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