Fantastical aquatic character in a circle? Check. Ring of all-caps text in blocky sans serif? Check. Even two little shells where the pair of stars should be.
From a distance, it looked like Yangon’s dream of tasting the biggest global name in corporate coffee had come true. A closer look however finds the new player in the caffeine game isn’t Starbucks but “Landbay.”
Launched by actor Kyaw Kyaw Bo, the brand’s launch has drawn much more attention than other new coffee brands for its very familiar logo, something he was anticipating.
“I knew this day would come since we were making the logo,” the 42-year-old actor told reporters.
He first teased the brand just last month, telling his followers “Let’s drink Landbay coffee!” (Landbay sounds like “roadside” in Burmese.) After that, many of his fellow actors jumped into his timeline to support the man named Best Actor in 2018 for his role in Clinging to Hate.
After he posted a photo of himself holding the cup featuring Greek sea god Poseidon in the same style as the familiar Starbucks mermaid – it went viral.
He said that he welcomed the controversy.
“I wanted to create a logo in a circle. The product is coffee, and since I wanted to use Poseidon to fit the name Land Bay, I knew it would be similar to Starbucks. I knew it would be criticized even before it launched. Everyone’s free to comment,” he said in an interview.
But Seattle’s corporate coffee titans are famously protective of their brand. They’ve sued copycats large and small worldwide, going so far in 2013 to demand the arrest of a Bangkok guy with a push-cart selling his coffee as “Starbung.” He capitulated and changed his cart’s name to “Bung’s Tears.”
That litigiousness extends to Myanmar despite the fact Starbucks has yet to enter the market. In 2005, Tun Aung Kyaw registered Starbucks as his own trademark at the Mandalay Region Contract & Registration Office.
The company published its cease and desist notice in the local newspaper:
“You are advised not to duplicate the brand in whole or in part directly or indirectly. Please be informed that legal action will be taken in accordance with the existing laws if it is used.”
Starbucks has defended its aggressive legal tactics by saying that if it doesn’t go after the little guys, serious offenders could argue in court that it hasn’t demonstrated an interest in securing its IP.
Coconuts Yangon was unable to reach Kyaw Kyaw Bo for comment.
Landbay store manager May Thazin Tun said he declined to answer questions about whether he was worried the US$120 billion company would bring the hammer down.
For now, the shop located on Taung Htate Pann Road has yet to open and is only selling one beverage online, a 3-in-1 instant coffee made with beans from Shan State’s Ywar Ngan area, May Thazin Tun said.