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Starbucks Corporation v. South Dakota Network LLC Shows New York Copyright Infringement Law in Action

A lawsuit between powerhouse coffee company Starbucks and a South Dakota communications company shows the great lengths that companies will, and should, go to in order to protect their identity.

In Starbucks Corporation v. South Dakota Network LLC, the communications company alleges that by Starbucks using “SDN” in promoting its Starbucks Digital Network to customers using free wireless, it infringes on SDN Communications.
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Intellectual property matters — copyright and trademark issues — are essential to maintaining and growing a business. Without the law to sort out companies unlawfully using another company’s hard-earned image, there would be chaos. Thankfully, New York has many laws and processes dedicated to sorting out these common squabbles that can cause a business to go under.

In the Starbucks case, the Seattle-based coffee chain sued the South Dakota information-services company in a trademark dispute, Bloomberg reports. According to court documents, South Dakota Network LLC, which does business as SDN Communications, is owned by 17 telephone companies in the state, offering business services in 19 western states and telecommunications in 36 states.

The company has objected to Starbucks’ use of SDN, an acronym that refers to the Starbucks Digital Network, its free Wi-Fi service for customers. Starbucks has received several cease-and-desist letters from the South Dakota company, accusing the coffee company of willful infringement of SDN Communications’ trademarks.

Starbucks has asked a judge in the U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska to stop the communications company fro threatening to file an infringement suit and requests attorneys’ fees and litigation costs. Starbucks says the allegations “casts a cloud over Starbucks’ ongoing use and development of the Starbucks Digital Network.”

This type of dispute is common, but it’s also a critical aspect of business law in New York and elsewhere. Small companies especially must fend of larger corporations who attempt to use logos, sayings, graphic designs and other information in the marketing of their own business.

Sometimes, a letter from an experienced and well-trained New York intellectual property lawyer can get the job done, causing the other company to back down and stop using information that isn’t theirs. But other times, they simply won’t stop and litigation is required. But whatever the strategy, protecting a business is paramount.

Other times, defending these types of cases is essential. It’s possible that one company tries to bring legal action against another who has the legal authority to use a certain logo or saying, despite claims by the other side. Perhaps that company began using the information first and it needs to be sorted out in court.

The article also cites trademark problems between two cupcake companies and a copyright issue between Google and a group of publishers, who allege the search-engine company unlawfully digitizing books and offering free previews. As you can see, this area of law spans to every field of business and in all kinds of situations.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides criminal defense in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

Additional Resources:

Nortel, Starbucks, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Google: Intellectual Property, by Victoria Slind-Flor, Bloomberg.

More Blog Entries:

Penguin Group V. American Buddha Shows the Need for Copyright Lawyers: June 21, 2011
Tavern On The Green Trademark Battle Ends in New York City: May 26, 2011