Haida coffee shop gets legal help in Starbucks fight

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2003

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The owners of a small coffee shop on the Queen Charlotte Islands have lined up a prominent lawyer to defend them in a trademark-infringement suit filed by coffee giant Starbucks.

Vancouver lawyer Joe Arvay has agreed to defend HaidaBucks Cafe against the Seattle-based company, which claims the aboriginal owners are violating copyright and creating confusion in the marketplace by using a name similar to its own.

HaidaBucks is located in Masset, a village of 700 on the remote Queen Charlottes, also known as HaidaGwaii, located off the northern B.C. coast. The nearest Starbucks is a long floatplane ride away.

Arvay is counsel for the Haida Nation in its landmark aboriginal title claim to sole ownership of the Queen Charlottes and all of its offshore resources.

"We've been using the term 'bucks' in our nation for far longer than Starbucks has," Darin Swanson, co-owner of the little cafe, said Thursday.

"We use the term 'bucks' to refer to young men. They're not just telling us to change our name, they're telling us to give up our pride in ourselves and our heritage."

Starbucks warned the coffee shop's owners last month to stop using bucks in the name or face a lawsuit.

The legal threats have received widespread publicity and a Web site (www.haidabuckscafe.com) dedicated to the confrontation has received more than 100,000 visitors.

HaidaBucks was founded in May 1999 by four members of the Haida Nation.

Ironically, the coffee shop serves Seattle's Best Coffee, a rival to the Starbucks brand until it was bought out by Starbucks last month.

Starbucks derives its name from a character in the Herman Melville novel "Moby-Dick," which has long since passed into the public domain.

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