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Indie cafe in Brixton takes on hedge-fund backed coffee chain over name

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A family-run vegan cafe in Brixton has launched a legal challenge against the London expansion of a big US coffee chain seeking to rival Starbucks, claiming its “highly similar” brand was causing reputational damage to its “indie vibe”.The David and Goliath trademark dispute sets south London’s Blank Coffee, owned by Warner Newman, 34, and Samantha McKinson, 32, and their popular plant-based cinnamon buns, against Blank Street, a New York brand whose owners are funding their expansion plans with the help of venture capital.Blank Street Coffee moved into the UK last year, saying it wanted to acquire 25 locations to add to its 50-plus stores in the US, as part of a global expansion funded by $60m (£50m) raised in 2021.Last summer, the New York Times wrote that the chain, whose business model is built around high-volume automated espresso systems, had become “suddenly inescapable”.

The company wants to make London its “second city” after New York.The founders of Blank Street Coffee, Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha, say they wish to challenge Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

The US company has, however, run into a legal row with Blank Coffee. The independent cafe in south London, founded in 2015 by Newman and McKinson as a cart catering to City workers, expanded into a cafe in Brixton in 2018, with a popular plant-based menu.The owners are formally opposing the registration of the Blank Street Coffee trademark in the UK, claiming it would “amount to a misrepresentation likely to lead to confusion as to the origin of their goods”.The couple’s statement of grounds for their opposition to the trademark registration, claims the 11 Blank Street cafes in London are already “causing actual confusion and are damaging the opponent, in that

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