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Caribou Coffee trademarked a drink, and they're being total jerks about it

What's in this cup? Whatever it is you'd better call it what Caribou wants you to call it!

What's in this cup? Whatever it is you'd better call it what Caribou wants you to call it! Star Tribune, Richard Tson-Taatarii

As we will learn by the end of this story, all coffee drinks must be appropriately #branded.

And "coffee with a shot of espresso" just doesn't suggest the appropriate level of attachment to one coffee shop. 

Or corporation, as it were. Caribou Coffee, based in Minneapolis, calls a coffee-and-a-shot a "Depth Charge," and liked the name so much they've registered it as a company trademark. And, they will quickly remind anyone, they are the only ones who get to call it that.

In December, attorneys for Caribou issued a cease-and-desist order to Grand World Coffee, a small brew shop in Duluth. Grand World just opened in 2016, according to the Duluth Budgeteer, and its owners assumed the term "depth charge" was a common one for the coffee-espresso mix. 

Not so, said Caribou's lawyers: The company's been calling it that since 1995, and has had the term trademarked since 2003. Caribou insisted Grand World both come up with a new name (reasonable) and send a response letter promising never to use "Depth Charge" again (oh, come on, Caribou.) 

Grand World held an employee meeting to come up with a new name. Apparently they should've invited Caribou's attorney: Their second choice, "deep charge," was still infringing on Caribou's intellectual property, according to a second cease-and-desist letter received March 6. 

"Consumers," warned the letter, which Grand World posted to Facebook, "could easily mishear the mark DEEP CHARGE as DEPTH CHARGE or understand that the mark DEEP CHARGE is simply a misspelling or mispronunciation of Caribou's DEPTH CHARGE mark." 

Fair point, happens all the time. Like that one night your friend swore the song "Smoke on the Water" was by some band called Depth Purple, or when your New Age-y aunt said she'd been listening to a lot of Depthak Chopra tapes.

As the Budgeteer notes, Grand World is the second independent coffee shop forced to change the name of its espresso-and-joe cocktail -- in Duluth. In 2014, it was Beaner's Central that got one of Carbiou's letters.

Beaner's owner Jason Wussow says his brew house had called the drink "depth charge" since 1999. He says it's just a regional term, one that's been in use for "many, many years"... until Caribou decided to claim ownership, that is. 

For the record, Caribou has registered trademarks on a number of other terms. Among them: Mint Chocolate Thrill, Vanilla Hazelnut Dreamstate, Pumpkin Love, Caramel Hideaway, Ho Ho Mint Mocha, Caribrew Club, and Caribou Coffee is the Official Coffee of Daylight Savings Time.

So don't use those terms for commercial use in any of your coffee endeavors, or Caribou's lawyers will come after you. Plus, customers will laugh at you, to your face. 

Grand World owner Linda Towne says her shop's looking for a new drink title, a name perhaps more interesting than the one they briefly shared with the touchy national chain. Explaining why she backed off, Towne said, cheekily, "I don't want to poke the caribou."

Nice turn of phrase: Poke the caribou. Maybe Towne should trademark that, as a phrase meaning anything that might piss off the big, bad bully on the coffee chain block.