By Jordan Valinsky, CNN
New York (CNN) — A very real legal drama over coffee is brewing on the set of a fictional TV show.
The ranch of Tyler Sheridan, who is the showrunner and creator of the hit TV show “Yellowstone,” is suing the coffee brand created by Cole Hauser, one of the show’s actors, for “trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising” over the logo used for Hauser’s new coffee company.
In the lawsuit filed last month, Sheridan’s ranch argues that the logo for its Bosque Ranch Craft Coffee, named after his ranch in Texas, is similar to that of Hauser’s coffee brand, Free Rein, because they both have “two overlapping letters.”
Bosque Ranch has been using the overlapping “BR” logo since 2004 and launched a coffee lineup in June 2023. In October, Free Rein coffee was created and started using a logo with the “FR” letters overlapping for one of its logos.
Sheridan’s ranch claims that Hauser and his coffee company had not “asked or received permission or authorization” from Sheridan “to use a mark confusingly similar to the ‘BR’ brand for virtually identical goods.” It added that the logo is “likely to cause confusion or to cause mistake or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association” with Bosque Ranch.
Bosque Ranch, which Sheridan has owned for nearly 20 years, is seeking an injunction against Hauser’s brand along with damages and profits from Free Rein. It’s also demanding the company “destroy all products, marketing, and promotional materials displaying” the logo.
Free Rein didn’t immediately return CNN’s request for comment.
Not a ‘slam-dunk case’
Attorney Josh Gerben told CNN that trademark infringement cases are “typically very close calls and depend heavily on the evidence the parties are able to bring forth in trial.”
A judge or jury will have to make a determination if the “average consumer might be confused into purchasing the Free Reign Coffee product when it was seeking to buy a Bosque Ranch Craft Coffee product,” he said.
For example, if other coffee brands have similar logos with overlapping letters, Gerben said the case would be weak for Bosque Ranch because there would be a “crowded marketplace of similar trademarks” that would show shoppers aren’t looking at just the logo or a two-letter acronym when picking a coffee brand.
“I do not consider this to be a slam-dunk case and think a decision would be a close call for any judge or jury,” Gerben said, who is not involved in the case.
As for a lawsuit between two co-workers, Gerben said it’s a “little surprising to see” since he thinks there was “clearly an opportunity for settlement discussions to take place.” Sheridan filing a federal lawsuit suggests the ranch felt that settlement discussions “were not obtaining the result it desired,” Gerben added.
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