San Diego - Evolution Fast Foods LLC, operator of a San Diego vegan fast food restaurant, sued Starbucks Corp. and its Evolution Fresh Inc. subsidiary this month for unauthorized use of its trademarked name.
Starbucks has opened restaurants in Washington state under the Evolution Fresh brand name that operate in direct competition with Evolution Fast Foods in the vegan and vegetarian restaurant industry, according to the complaint Evolution Fast Foods filed on August 13.
Beginning in 2009, Evolution Fast Foods was organized as part of a rebranding of an ongoing restaurant called Nature's Express, which served only vegan foods and juices. Evolution Fast Foods manager Mitch C. Wallis holds the trademark rights to the company's name, the complaint says.
The date of first use of the Evolution Fast Food mark was at least as early as April 20, 2010, the company asserts. The mark was registered as a federal trademark as of May 10, 2011 for cafe and restaurant services.
Evolution Fast Food asserts that Juice Harvest Corp. obtained a trademark for "Juice Evolution" in October 1998, and then was issued one for the word mark "Evolution" and a related logo in April 2010, pertaining to fruit and vegetable drinks and juices.
Juice Harvest then assigned all rights to its trademarks to Evolution Fresh in May 2010, and Starbucks bought Evolution Fresh in November 2011, the complaint says. News reports placed the purchase price at $30 million.
Starbucks acquired Evolution Fresh to build a nationally recognized brand name in the health and wellness industry, and to that end opened two restaurants under the Evolution Fresh brand name, first in Bellevue, Washington in March and then in Seattle, Washington in July, Evolution Fast Foods says. The pair of restaurants are only the first of many Starbucks plans to open under the Evolution Fresh name, according to Evolution Fast Foods.
When the Bellevue restaurant opened, Starbucks unveiled a new logo bearing the words "Evolution Fresh" that is far different from Evolution Fresh's original "Evolution" mark, and is substantially similar to Evolution Fast Foods' mark, the complaint says. Evolution Fresh filed an application in May for a federal trademark for "Evolution Fresh" as pertaining to restaurants and cafes, it says.
On August 15, two days after Evolution Fast Foods filed its lawsuit, Starbucks announced that it would be building a major new juice factory in Rancho Cucamonga, California to expand the Evolution Fresh line. The company currently operates a juice plant in San Bernardino, California, where Evolution Fresh got its start.