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'Dumb Starbucks' shut down, tied to famous comedy duo

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It was a caffeine-charged Hollywood whodunit: Just whose bright idea was the "Dumb Starbucks" coffee shop that popped up and started serving free drinks from the corner of an otherwise uncelebrated strip mall?

After several days of speculation, the big reveal came Monday: The buzz-generating shop was a comedian's publicity stunt.

Keeping a straight face, Canadian comic Nathan Fielder told a crowd he was pursuing the "American dream" - before acknowledging that he planned to use the bit on his Comedy Central show "Nathan For You."

Earlier in the day, and for much of the weekend, a line from the store wound alongside the parking lot and up the block. Some patrons snapped pictures in front of a green awning and mermaid logo that is familiar - except that the word "Dumb" is prominently featured.

They weren't coming for gourmet fare: Their descriptions of the coffee ranged from "horrible" to "bitter," and one parent said his daughter complained that the hot chocolate was like water.

Instead, they were just coming to say they came, and to score a white paper cup with a sticker bearing the curious logo.

"It was a pretty dumb idea to come out in the cold" and wait for nearly two hours to get a coffee, joked Anthony Solis, who lives in nearby Hollywood.

'Dumb Starbucks' Opens, Becomes Social Media Sensation

Dumb Starbucks opened Friday, and the interest it generated grew over the weekend with a boost from posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Before the rush of the past few days, production crews came to the location several times to film, according to permits taken out with Film LA, a private nonprofit that issues the licenses. The permits were billed to Abso Lutely Productions, which has produced Fielder's show.

Once opened, Dumb Starbucks caught the attention of the real Starbucks.

"While we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark," Laurel Harper, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based Starbucks Corp., said in an email.

She added that most trademark disputes are handled informally, suggesting the company might not need to take legal action.

At the front counter, a sheet of frequently asked questions said the store was shielded by "parody law."

"By adding the word `dumb,' we are technically `making fun' of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as `fair use,'" the sheet said.

It continued: "In the eyes of the law, our `coffee shop' is actually an art gallery and the `coffee' you're buying is considered art. But that's for our lawyers to worry about."

One law professor suggested Dumb Starbucks needed to sharpen its legal theory.

"Fair use" can protect parodies of copyright material, but a trademark such as the logo has different protections that Dumb Starbucks may well be violating, said Mark McKenna, a trademark law expert at the University of Notre Dame.

Fielder, the comedian, said Monday that he didn't need Starbucks' permission and he was glad the company had not pursued a "case they know they can't win."

Soon thereafter, he said city health inspectors had arrived and told his staff that they had to stop serving drinks.

---

Contact Justin Pritchard at HTTPS://TWITTER.COM/LALANEWSMAN . Associated Press writers Candice Choi and Jake Coyle in New York also contributed to this story.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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Dude February 10 2014 at 11:59 PM

Sorry Starbucks, but it was a parody so they can use your name. And did.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
RouteUS66Busload February 11 2014 at 4:45 AM

A clone to the perviously "Stupidity Starbusts," and their "too expectant" CEO into Dumb?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Pope John February 11 2014 at 10:59 AM

So who is the "famous comedy duo".

Flag Reply +5 rate up
dargaither February 11 2014 at 10:06 AM

DUMB is all I can add.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
quazachazed February 11 2014 at 9:44 AM

Nathan Fielder is not funny. The On Your Side bits he did on This Hour Has 22 Minutes were always just stupid and boring.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
rouse2434 February 11 2014 at 9:43 AM

Consumer Reports did one of their famous comparison tests for coffee.... "Eight O'Clock Coffee" came out IN FIRST PLACE..... Starbucks coffee was like 5th or 7th place. TRUE..... you can google this fact. By the way, Eight O'Clock coffee is an old A&P brand that is inexpensive and found at most good grocery stores. It uses only premium arabica beans!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Frankie Baby February 11 2014 at 6:47 AM

Thank you for giving us all a good laugh .... if Starbucks wants to make a big deal of this , it will cost them millions of dollars in revenue . I , myself , have never had a Starbucks product , since I grind my own beans and spend about 50 cents for a POT of fresh brewed flavored coffee in mi casa ..... I call it DaddyMacaMocha :-P

Flag Reply +4 rate up
pulletsurprise2 February 11 2014 at 10:25 AM

Dumb isn't the pejorative I'd display when it comes to Starbucks but it's better than none. I've found out that Burger King has better coffee than they..........and it costs about a quarter as much. Why, even Dunkin Donuts has better coffee and their silly combinations are less than half the price of Starbucks. The big question is: Why does anyone wish to buy their coffee at Starbucks? There's no accounting for taste, I guess.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
sachfoxo February 11 2014 at 1:25 PM

One Starbucks in Houston served up nothing but humiliation to a veteran and his service dog.
Starbucks Humiliated one of our service Men when he went in with his service dog. He is missing limbs Starbucks in hot water after humiliating vet with service dog
Feb 10th 2014 1:42 PM 'Iraq War vet Yancy Baer and his dog Beans were there for a meeting about the service dog's training when Baer says he was repeatedly questioned about why he even needed his dog,' 'Fox & Friends' reports. "Shut them Down ! " Fielder, the comedian, said Monday that he didn't need Starbucks' permission and he was glad the company had not pursued a "case they know they can't win."
2 Bad story's about them in one day.
If this is how their staff handles things I think I will sell my Stock ......Don't want to Invest in an unsound company. All of this will keep happening....
Soon thereafter, he said city health inspectors had arrived and told his staff that they had to stop serving drinks. Who knows what kind of Nut's are in the Java ? I don't ever go there ..... Duncan Donuts has the BEST

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
Jacquie sachfoxo February 11 2014 at 2:21 PM

You are implying that the service dog was need as a result of his service to the military, but it in fact he lost his leg to cancer. And honestly he does not appear to need the service dog to perform any functions. The dog is basically his companion and should have been left at home for the trip to Starbucks. In my mid both parties acted inappropriately.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
Tiwilliker Jacquie February 11 2014 at 3:32 PM

So, because his disability resulted from cancer and not from military service, he doesn't need a service dog? Odds are, you don't know enough about the situation to make a judgement regarding whether this veteran, disabled by cancer, needs a service dog or not.

Flag 0 rate up
Karine February 11 2014 at 9:30 AM

Right on the money - because Starbucks Customers are dumb paying so much money for Coffee.. I make better coffe at home - Starbucks coffee scks bigtime and so do their customers ... Dumb elitists and Starbucks reaks in the "BUCKS"

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
DON Karine February 11 2014 at 10:02 AM

Wouldn't that make the customers dumb? But Stabucks would be characterized as cunning or shrewd -- if possibly unscrupulous. It's unfortunarte their skin is so thin on this issue. But that too is understandable given thier lack of concern over the actions of a Houston franchisee toward a disabled person and his service animal. Apologies notwhtstanding that's enough reason to go somewhere else for service.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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