Kelowna's Canoe Coffee Roaster has 10 days to change name, US company threatens lawsuit - InfoNews

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Kelowna's Canoe Coffee Roaster has 10 days to change name, US company threatens lawsuit

Canoe Coffee is going to change its name.
Image Credit: SUBM ITTED/ Canoe Coffee Roasters
December 21, 2019 - 3:31 PM

A popular Kelowna coffee roaster is being forced to change its name as a "multi-billion-dollar" US company threatens crippling legal action over its similarly branded offshoot.

Canoe Coffee Roasters started providing specialty coffee in 2015 out of a trailer that became a Kelowna hotspot. It grew into a roastery and cafe in the North End earlier this year, and have been “grounding coffee lovers” with their specialty blends ever since.

Success, however, has come with its trappings.

Co-owner Jen Upshaw said she and her husband Dave were contacted a couple of months ago by a large US company that they've been advised not to name. Lawyers for the company that owns resorts, theme parks and a small coffee company that shares the Canoe name in some form said the Kelowna roastery couldn’t share its name any longer.

“We had our lawyers look at it, and they said they didn’t think it was anything too serious,” Upshaw said. “Usually these companies shake you down with a threatening letter and nothing comes of it.”

The Upshaws’ lawyer responded, said they wouldn’t comply with the request and that it was not trademark infringement for a number of reasons.

“Then we got a message saying they would take us to federal court if we did not stop using our name and we have 10 days to comply,” she said.

“We were speechless for a couple of minutes —basically this is a huge corporation that has decided that its name is too close to one of their small offshoot company’s names and have threatened crippling legal action.”

The Upshaws believe they have grounds to fight the lawsuit, but the legal fees alone would likely cost somewhere around $150,000 and they are too small to bear the weight of that loss.

“We’d rather not risk the fight and hassle and cut our losses and start over,” she said.

The branding losses may be significant. As is, they can’t even offer a play on the current branding that would save the concept born years earlier, and rename it something like Kanoe or Little Canoe.

“Now we have to come up with a new identity,” she said. “We’re going to flip the script and think of something that fits with our vision.”

Canoe, she said, felt like a good fit because it matched their initial vision of something calming, sustainable, active and steeped in Canadian heritage.

“We’re sad to lose that but changing the name won’t change who we are,” she said. “We have to rebrand, get fresh and create again.”

To do that they’re reaching out to their community which, in itself, is part of the core values of the company.

“We’re a small family run business and we want to choose a name that reflects who we are as a community,” she said, adding that if someone can come up with the right name,  there could be the reward of coffee for a year.


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