Last Updated on June 11, 2022
A company that owns the Seattle Space Needle has filed a lawsuit against a local coffee chain, alleging that the coffee shop is using its trademarked logo for branding and merchandise.
The logo for Local Coffee Spot, which has four locations in the Seattle area, features a mug of hot coffee whose rising steam bears striking resemblance to the iconic tower’s own logo used on branded merchandise, according to the Seattle Times.
The company that owns the Space Needle, says the coffee shop’s logo copies a trademarked design, and filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Karen Olson, who serves as chief of the Space Needle’s operations and marketing departments, called the action “unusual” and “unprecedented.”
“We’ve never had to get to this point” Olson told the Seattle Times. “I’m surprised that we’re here.”
Beau McKeon, a co-owner who helped to start the company during pandemic-related unemployment highs, was also shocked by the news. “We feel very, very victimized as the small guys,” McKeon said. “This is beyond bullying.”
Olson said the lawsuit is a first in her 10-year tenure with the Space Needle.
“Since trademarks are only valid if owners enforce them, the Space Needle’s marketing team constantly searches for misuse of the building’s name, image and likeness,” the Seattle Times reported. The company has worked with “hundreds and hundreds” of Seattle businesses whose logos didn’t comply.
“We’re not asking for any monetary compensation, we’re not asking for anything egregious. Just stop using our licensed trademark,” Olson said. “And we’ll work with them to do so.”
According to Olson, the company contacted Local Coffee Spot in March 2021 and offered to have the Space Needle’s graphic design team assist with developing a new logo. According to the lawsuit, the coffee chain did not “meaningfully respond” to the Space Needle’s request.
McKeon claims he did respond, adding that the Space Needle designers never followed through with their offer of working together to create a new design.
The co-owner shared an email sent in July 2021 with the Seattle Times that said “Excellent, what are next steps!” in regard to the offer. McKeon would ultimately not hear from the Space Needle owners until he was served with a legal notice.
“On multiple occasions, they never produced a [designer’s] name, number, or contact information,” he said. “We’re willing to comply, like we want to comply. But, we’re not Starbucks — we’re not making millions of dollars a year.”
Both the coffee chain and the Space Needle owners claim the other party failed to show up for a planned meeting in April to discuss a plan. The lawsuit was served on May 31.