If, as Slate predicts, the cupcake boom will soon go bust, why does one of the larger players in the cookie jar insist on bullying its competitors over weak trademark claims? Honestly, “sprinkles” is weak in the ice cream and frozen yogurt field – not to mention generic of the stuff that is, ahem, sprinkled on top of cupcakes, ice cream and frozen yogurt (I’ll add a “duh” in case my teenage daughter reads this one). Add to that what appears to be some aggressive attempts at enforcing their allegedly distinctive concentric circle design (hello? FUNCTIONAL, just look at this chart, not to mention the comments here), and you’ve got a company that’s giving itself some terrifically negative press in an already tight market. To wit, from this blog:
It’s a giant sprinkle. If your cupcakes taste good you should have
nothing to worry about. Also – like I said – IT”S A GIANT SPRINKLE. I
mean I know we live in a day and age where branding is super important,
but when it comes down to it, the people that would mix the two
companies up aren’t coming to shop for your name anyways [sic], they’re
probably coming because they want some cake and you’re nearby.
What may really be happening here is that Sprinkles Cupcakes has no chance of stopping the most recent defendant’s actual use of Sprinkles – a Google search turns up many ice cream and yogurt shops all over the country with Sprinkles in the name, many of which I’m sure long predate Sprinkles Cupcakes’ use of the term (and could come back to bite them in the frosting when they undertake their prospective national expansion, as well as when they try to register the mark for ice cream, I might add). IMHO, it looks like the cupcake folks may, however clumsily, be trying to protect the PTO register from the incursion of other owners. While that goal is legitimate, there may be a gentler way to achieve it while also maintaining corporate goodwill in a competitive but risky environment.
Also, tachlis: if you want to be the Starbucks of cupcakes, choose a more distinctive name, okay?
P.S. I recognize that I have in the past lauded one-word restaurant/retail establishment names and am trying to rationalize my reaction to Sprinkles as compared to, for example, Chipotle or Garbanzo. I think it comes down to two things: (1) Sprinkles has been a common name for ice cream “shoppes” for years before Sprinkles Cupcakes came on the scene; and (2) THEY’RE SPRINKLES! RIGHT THERE ON TOP OF THE CONES AND CUPCAKES! HOW MUCH MORE OBVIOUS COULD IT BE?
Okay, I think it’s time for a break now!
H/t Leslie Blythe Miller – chef, food blogger, and longtime partner in crime.