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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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castcutters February 11 2014 at 5:52 PM

Starbucks HAS to overcharge for their products. Otherwise, how could they have enough profit left over to make huge contributions to political parties?

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Glenda February 11 2014 at 3:11 PM

WHY THE NAME DUMB STARBUCKS FITS SO WELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why I read a news story this morning about an American Veteran who was humiliated at Starbucks,. The veteran was there for a meeting about service dogs. An ignorant employee repeatedly question him, why do you need a service dog if your not blind just do everything yourself. Then the employee said dogs are not allowed!!! Even though it was a service dog. Here is Starbucks LESS THAN SINCERE APOLOGY; WE ALWAYS WELCOME SEVICE DOGS INTO OUR STORE, WE APOLOGIZE FOR HIS EXPERIENCE. Who are they apologizing to the veteran or the dog. They didn't mention either ones name. However, they decided to use this as a coaching tool for their employees. Starbucks you should be ashamed for what you call and apology. This veteran is the reason why you have a multimillion dollar company because he defends this country from invaders. STARBUCKS YOU SHOULD GIVE ONE FREE CUP OF COFFEE ON VETERANS DAY TO AMERICAN VETERANS!!!! Now that would be a sincere and grateful apology, not were going to use this as a training tool for you employees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember everyone not every disability is visible and you might not agree with war but always support our troops they didn't start it, their serving our country with their lives. To all who support our troops please let Starbucks know their apology SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank You.

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1 reply to Glenda's comment
retopper February 11 2014 at 3:34 PM

What school did you attend? Was it 'We Don't Write Good U?'

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jwfoust February 11 2014 at 1:35 PM

The name is appropriate. Everything is over priced. The coffee, seriously they actually sell coffee, pretty much sucks. 7 / Eleven and Dunkin Donuts coffee is so much better. Other than paying more I've failed to see the appeal of StarBucks. Dumb Bucks seems to sum it up a little better.

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bmillcwc February 11 2014 at 3:11 PM

I like their food is great as well as the coffee.

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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

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Jacquie 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.

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Tiwilliker 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.

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Tom February 11 2014 at 1:10 PM

They keep getting dumber by the minute

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RIKKI February 11 2014 at 12:48 PM

73 degrees cold?? really? try being in Michigan where it's --20 degrees below zero! either way this whole thing is dumb and I cant believe i just waisted all this time and energy on this! now thats dumb!

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Scottilla February 11 2014 at 12:16 PM

""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."
73 Degrees. Cold.

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paintingalife February 11 2014 at 11:58 AM

Starbucks is a dirty glorified fast food restaurant. Years ago you got better coffee way cheaper and you can sit in a diner alone or with a friend and just have coffee stay as long as you want and pay about $2.50 for two coffees, that included the tip! these dopey people who think Starbucks is the bomb don't know how good it really used to be.

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Rick Schoenherr February 11 2014 at 11:48 AM

Dumb publicity stunt. I would like to see Starbucks (who's stock is probably in most of your 401-k and IRA's) sues their butt off for using their logo.

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3 replies to Rick Schoenherr's comment
Fred February 11 2014 at 11:23 AM

NOT worth reading, but I did anyway, where did Americans humor go to.

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