Dunkin’ Donuts threatens local coffee shop with legal action over slogan

By Small Business FOXBusiness

A drink and a doughnut are seen at a Dunkin' Donuts location in the Chicago suburb of Niles, Illinois, February 4, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo (Copyright Reuters 2016)

Global coffeehouse giant Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN) sent a cease-and-desist letter to a mom and pop coffee shop in Massachusetts over a sign in its storefront window that read “North Now Runs on Mike’s.”

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“[They said] it creates a likelihood of confusion among customers by implying you’re an approved vendor of ours,” Mike’s Coffee shop owner Steve Copoulos told FOX Business.

Copoulos’ father opened the original Mike’s Coffee shop about forty years ago and was approached by Dunkin’ Donuts a couple years later with an offer to purchase the building, Copoulos said.

According to Copoulos, his father wouldn’t sell the building, but ended up leasing it to the chain for years before Dunkin’ Donuts recently left the location. Mr. Copoulos reopened the store under its original name about one month ago and many of the store’s original, and “loyal,” customers returned, he said.

“A customer said ‘now that you’re back we’re running on Mike’s,’” Copoulos said, of where the slogan came from.

What may have been intended as a joke was not taken lightly by everyone. Dunkin’ Donuts sent Copoulos a letter claiming copyright infringement that was dated May 19.

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"In support of our legal rights under trademark law and in support of our franchisees, Dunkin' Donuts sent a cease and desist letter to Mike's Coffee in North Attleboro, Mass. for the unauthorized display of a variation of our ‘America Runs on Dunkin’ mark," Dunkin’ Donuts wrote in a statement to FOX Business.

The “sign,” which was written in washable paint on the storefront window and essentially wiped off following a rainstorm, according to Copoulos, has since been removed.

“As soon as we got the letter we took it down,” Copoulos said. “I was just appalled that they would think so little of their customer base to think their customers would get confused.”

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Copoulos, who said he reopened the store on a “shoestring budget” and still doesn’t have an official sign outside, told FOX Business his business is family-run, everything is baked fresh on the premises using locally sourced ingredients and if you have a complaint you can turn right around and tell Mr. Copoulos yourself.

Dunkin’ Donuts launched its “America Runs on Dunkin’” campaign in 2006, after a consortium of private equity firms including Bain Capital, The Carlyle Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners acquired the chain. The Canton, Massachusetts-based business was founded in 1950 and has 12,000 restaurants in 45 countries across the globe, according to its website.

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