The Intellectual Property and International Trade Court has urged Starbucks and a local coffee seller to try to settle their trademark infringement dispute before the next hearing on Nov 18.
Push-cart coffee vendor Damrong Maslae makes milk tea under his 'Starbung Coffee' logo on Phra Arthit Road in Phra Nakhon district. (File photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
The court on Monday dismissed the multinational coffee chain's petition seeking the arrest of the owners of the Starbung push-cart coffee business.
Starbucks had sought arrest warrants for Damrong Maslae and his brother Damras for allegedly failing to comply with an injunction that bans them from using the Starbung logo displayed on their vending stall.
The company's petition said an inspection found the vendors were still using the contentious logo while selling coffee between Oct 10 and 15. However, the petition was rejected during the court's first hearing on Monday.
The duo's coffee stand, operated on the curbside on Phra Arthit Road, is called "Starbung Coffee" with a green-and-white logo that Starbucks claims infringes on its intellectual property rights.
Mr Damrong maintains his logo is inspired by his religion with symbols that unmistakably represent halal, stars and the crescent moon. Green, he insisted, is the colour of Islam.
Bung (shortened from Abang or older brother in Bahasa Malay) is a word generally used for a Muslim male.
Mr Damrong and Mr Damras were not in court on Monday. Their lawyer, Nanton Inthanon, claimed his clients had not received the summons. He lodged a counter-complaint with the judge, saying Starbucks' request for the arrest and detention of his clients violated the law.
He said the company submitted its complaint on Oct 2 despite the fact that a court notice had just been served at the brothers' home on Sept 19. The submission was two days too early, he said, because the law states that a plaintiff must wait 15 days after a writ has been served before proceeding.
Mr Nanton also said the summons was not mailed to the defendants' address. The judge, however, dismissed his claim, arguing the summons had been mailed to the address that was shown on their civil registration and identification cards.
Mr Nanton argued the defendants had complied with the court injunction and presented photographs, said to have been taken on Sunday, showing that they had already removed the logo at the centre of the legal battle.
He also told the judge he had recommended the duo stop using stickers and paper cup holders with the Starbung logo while operating.
The lawyer affirmed that he would bring his clients to court for the next hearing.
The judge decided not to issue arrest warrants for the defendants and gave them another chance to appear in court to answer questions. The judge set the next hearing on Nov 18 at 10am and urged both sides to enter settlement talks.
Speaking after Monday's first hearing, Mr Nanton admitted that his clients had not entered serious settlement talks with Starbucks yet as they were not confident and did not understand some of the provisions relating to the case.
If Starbucks asked Mr Damrong to change the colour of his logo, the lawyer said, his client would consider the request based on business necessity.
He admitted that his clients had not complied with an earlier injunction order, citing problems with the receipt of legal notices.
After the court hearing, Starbucks' public relations representatives issued a statement saying the company always favoured a friendly approach and compromise when it came to trademark infringement issues. It tried to talk directly to violators and offer assistance to them and many understood and agreed to change their logos to be different from that of the company.
The company said it had used the same approach with Mr Damrong and Mr Damras. Company representatives had contacted the vendors several times to seek a mutual agreement that would benefit both sides. They offered help in designing an alternative new logo to the Maslaes.
However, the two brothers did not accept the proposal, nor did they want to negotiate with the company or other organisations that stepped in to mediate.
The situation left Starbucks with no choice but to take the case to court to protect its trademark rights, the statement said.
The company still hopes that the conflict could be ended without the need to pursue further legal proceedings, it added.
Starbucks has also filed other complaints, demanding compensation of 300,000 baht, plus 7.5% interest a year, in addition to a monthly payment of 30,000 baht and legal fees, in its suit alleging a trademark act breach.