Space Needle Sues Seattle Coffee Shop for Trademark Infringement

Maya Miller / The Seattle Times (TNS)

SEATTLE — The Seattle Space Needle has sued a local coffee chain for using its trademarked logo in coffee shop 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 iconic striking resemblance to the tower’s own logo used on branded merchandise.

The Space Needle’s owner, a private company, contends the coffee shop’s logo copies a trademarked design, and filed a lawsuit last month in US District Court in Seattle. Karen Olson, who heads the Space Needle’s operations and marketing departments, said the legal action is unusual, if not unprecedented, for the company.

“We’ve never had to get to this point” Olson said. “I’m surprised that we’re here.”

Beau McKeon, co-owner of Local Coffee Spot, shares that feeling of surprise. A lifelong Seattleite, he can’t believe that the venture he started as a way to employ people during the pandemic has drawn a lawsuit.

“We feel very, very victimized as the small guys,” McKeon said. “This is beyond bullying.”

In Olson’s nearly 10-year tenure, the Space Needle has never sued anyone for trademark infringement, she said.

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. They’ve worked with “hundreds and hundreds” of area businesses whose logos didn’t comply, Olson said. Most of the time, people don’t realize the symbol is a registered trademark.

“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.”

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 Olson. The lawsuit claims that Local Coffee Spot did not “meaningfully respond” to the Space Needle’s initial communication.

But McKeon said he did respond, and the Space Needle designers never followed through with their offer of working together to create a new design. Emails that McKeon shared with The Seattle Times show the last correspondence was July 15, 2021, when he asked the designers, “Excellent, what are next steps!”

The next time McKeon heard from the Space Needle was when the legal team contacted him in November, he said. He felt like the attorney gave him no good options.

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 parties claim that the other failed to show up for a planned meeting in April to discuss a path forward. The lawsuit was served on May 31.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.