Starbucks Duffin Lawsuit: Bea’s Of Bloomsbury Claims Coffee Titan Is Bluffin' With Their Muffin Recipe

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Move over, Cronuts: There’s a new pastry hybrid in town and it’s causing a stir. The pastry in question – a doughy cross-pollination of muffins and doughnuts known as the “duffin” – is generating outrage after it appeared on Starbucks’ menu, even though according to one American baker, it’s been in circulation for longer than that.

According to the Guardian, Bea Vo, the owner of London-based bakery chain Bea’s of Bloomsbury, claims that her recipe for duffins, a baked concoction that features raspberry jam, buttermilk and nutmeg, became a smashing success with customers over two years ago, so much so that she even included it in her 2011 cookbook, “Tea with Bea.” So it was with some shock, she says, that she found out last week on Twitter that Starbucks UK had trademarked the pastry though their supplier, Rich’s Products.

Vo says that the pastry is just "part of who we are and what we make," but now worries that the trademark could prevent her from selling duffins at her four bakeries. She says that Starbucks’ version conspicuously resembles her own pastry. Starbucks describes the product on its website as "the best of a muffin” mixed up “with elements of a traditional jam filled doughnut.”

They even acknowledge their duffin competition writing, “We loved the idea and it seemed like others did too, in fact since we launched it nationwide last week we’ve started to hear about a few other versions out there, we’re sure they all taste great …”

But Vo says that Starbucks’ claim that it had no idea such a pastry already existed on the market after conducting “an extensive search online and a full trademark search” is “rubbish.” “Starbucks maintains its original account that its invention is a unique invention and that it did an extensive online search for the word duffin and found nothing and as a result their supplier trademarked that name. I think that's rubbish,” she told the Independent.

“I would love to see  the emails between Starbucks and Rich's Products during the birth of their invention,” she added. Vo conceded that the doughtnut/muffin combination predated her own pastry – celebrity chef Nigella Lawson shared her own recipe for jam doughnut muffins in 2008 -- but said that her addition of nutmeg was unique.

 “Of course the concept of the doughnut/muffin has been around online for a few years, but this version with nutmeg is my particular take on it,” Vo said. “I don't mind if Starbucks chooses to create a crappy version of my duffin, but don't trademark it, which gives you the legal right to prevent anyone else using the name duffin, especially the people who used it for two years before you.” Starbucks confirmed to the Independent that Rich’s Products had indeed trademarked the name in the United Kingdom, but said that it would not prevent Vo from selling her concoction.

Ian Cranna, vice president of marketing and category at Starbucks, said: “Since launching, we have discovered there are other duffins out there in the UK, including at Bea's of Bloomsbury. … however we'd like to make it clear that neither Starbucks nor Rich's Products has suggested to Bea's of Bloomsbury that they will attempt to stop them selling their own duffins.”

But Vo was unfazed, calling the statement “laughable,” and countering, “They own the trademark. The only purpose of owning the trademark is to protect the name. But they're protecting something that they clearly aren't the originator of.” Her supporters have rallied around her, trending the Twitter hashtag #duffingate to expose the doughtnut similarities.

 “It's like saying we trademarked the word fairy cake and we're going to let this one person make fairy cakes because they've come up with it. But everyone else, well, we're going to f--- them over,” Vo said.

Rich's Products reportedly did not respond to requests for comment from the Independent.

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