Update 9:15 p.m. EST:
Less than an hour after Fielder's press conference, the Dumb Starbucks was closed down by the Los Angeles County Health Department for operating without a permit, KPCC radio reports.
Reality show star Nathan Fielder has revealed himself to be the proud owner of Dumb Starbucks, a parody coffee shop in Los Angeles that has attracted national attention. Fielder is the star of “Nathan For You,” a Comedy Central show in which he helps businesses with new and often comical marketing strategies.
Dumb Starbucks is an exact replica of a real Starbucks café, except with the word "dumb" put in front of everything, including all of their menu items. Fielder has not said if the store is part of his Comedy Central show.
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Fielder contends that despite using the Starbucks name and (slightly altered) logo, and just about everything else about the real Starbucks, that his store is completely legal because of the "fair use" law which allows for copyrighted material to be used for parody. Therefore it’s actually a work of art and not technically a coffee shop, he says.
Buzzfeed has posted a FAQ from Dumb Starbucks that explains how they supposedly work around copyright law. It reads:
“We are simply using their name and logo for marketing purposes. By adding the word ‘dumb’ we are technically ‘making fun’ of Starbucks, which allows us to use their trademarks under a law known as ‘fair use.’”
Enjoy our full menu of coffees and cold drinks pic.twitter.com/wPacrEEH9k
— Dumb Starbucks (@dumbstarbucks) February 8, 2014
Fielder made the announcement at 4 p.m. Pacific time to a throng of customers outside his store at 1802 Hillhurst Ave in Los Angeles. Customers have been waiting outside for hours to get coffee from Dumb Starbucks, all of which is free. Unfortunately the pastry and music CDs aren’t actually for sale.
A slightly satirical video explaining the project was posted earlier on the Dumb Starbucks Twitter.
“Many of you probably know me as a comedian, but this is no bit or joke. This is a real business I plan to get rich from, but I need your support,” says Fielder in the video, “come in and get a free coffee on me, just say Nathan sent you!”
Starbucks has taken the parody in stride, but says it is consulting with its lawyers how to handle the case. “While we appreciate the humor,” said a rep, “they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark.”
In December 2013, Starbucks sued a Missouri Pub for naming a brew “Frappicino,” but the pub owner’s comical response ended up drumming up more support for the pub than anything. Hear what a legal expert has to say about Dumb Starbucks.
See Fielder’s video below: