ASTORIA, Ore. – A judge has told Sam Buck that she can't call her coffee shop Sambuck's. The judge ruled the name violated the trademark of coffee giant Starbucks (SBUX).
But there is a silver lining for the small business owner. Buck won't have to pay Starbucks' legal fees, even though it could under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty.
A Starbucks representative said the company never planned to ask Buck to cover its legal costs.
"It's not about David and Goliath," said May Kulthol, manager of media relations for Starbucks Coffee. "We try to deal with these types of situations amicably and to come to a good conclusion for both parties. The defendant is not required to pay legal fees nor did we seek damages from her."
Starbucks has two weeks from the Nov. 29 ruling to present a "bill of costs" to the court, which would include a request for attorney's fees, although Kulthol said the company won't pursue it.
Once that two-week period is up, Buck will decide whether to appeal. She has 30 days from the ruling date to make her decision.
Her attorney said the grounds for appeal are strong in several areas. Although the court ruled Buck was a competitor to Starbucks, and that she watered down the company's trademark, Oregon's anti-dilution law "normally doesn't apply between competing companies," Kurt Rylander said.
But the main question, one that "underpins the entire case," involves Buck's name, according to Rylander.
"Sambuck's" was an amalgamation of the business owner's maiden name, Samantha Buck, and she contends "Sam Buck" is how she's known to most people in Astoria.
But Starbucks' lawsuit was filed against Samantha Lundberg, her married name.
The court ruled that Buck abandoned her maiden name by getting married, but Rylander disagrees.
"Women don't abandon their maiden names," he said. "They can still use them when they get married."
He presented two witnesses who testified that Sam Buck is known to community members as just that, but their accounts were ignored in the court's opinion, he said, providing possible grounds for an appeal.