Starbucks U.K. this month jumped on the pastry hybrid craze with what the company says is their twist on a mix between “the mighty muffin”—an American muffin, not the flatter English one—and a donut: the “Duffin.” Its supplier, Rich Products, trademarked the name in July this year. But a London bakery has now hit out at the coffee giant for protecting something that it claims Starbucks did not invent.
American baker Bea Vo, proprietor of the London cakeshop, Bea’s of Bloomsbury, produced her donut-muffin hybrid back in 2011, reports the Guardian. Her version includes nutmeg, buttermilk and raspberry jam—a close match in fact to what Starbucks have put out across its 730 branches across the U.K. this month.
— Bea’s of Bloomsbury (@beas_bloomsbury) October 8, 2013
Speaking with the Independent, Vo said: “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.”
It appears that many agree with Vo and her bakery chain, as the row has inspired its own Twitter hashtag: #duffingate. In a post on Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s Facebook page, Vo notes the history of their Duffin, and says Starbucks “should just give credit where credit is due and not claim it for themselves.” Vo also notes that “desserts are rarely newly invented,” and later tweeted that she doesn’t “think anyone should ‘own’ the name Duffin. It should be free to anyone.”
Vo fears that because the multinational’s supplier had trademarked the name, it could stop her from selling her own product. She tweeted: “have to admit, #duffingate is wild. Never thought I’d be in David vs. Goliath thing, that I could be prevented from selling my own creation.”
Ian Cranna, VP of Marketing & Category at Starbucks, told TIME in an e-mail that “since launching the Starbucks Duffin, we have discovered there are other Duffins being created and enjoyed in the U.K.” He added, “neither Starbucks nor Rich Products has at any time suggested that we will attempt to stop Bea’s of Bloomsbury selling their own Duffins.”
But in an interview with the Independent, Vo said that she is still concerned about future legal consequences because “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.”
Matthew Sammon, a trade mark specialist and lawyer, told TIME that though Starbucks has said it won’t try to stop Vo selling her hybrid pastries, it “could harm Bea’s ability to expand their product” outside of London, as her reputation for selling them is only established there.
The Duffin is not the only pastry-hybrid to inspire legal wranglings. Dominique Ansel, the New York baker behind the “Cronut,” chose to protect the name in May after it inspired several similar inventions. But as Adam Liaw, a cook and intellectual property lawyer, explains in a blog post for the Wall Street Journal, trademarks protect only names and brands, hence why “for every Cronut there will be a thousand legal wownuts, zonuts and doissants.”