No one can “run on” any coffee except Dunkin'

By Sammy Nickalls
Updated February 13, 2018
EC: Dunkin' Donuts Sent a Cease-and-Desist to a Small Coffee Shop
Credit: Photo by Flickr user Mike Mozart

Whether you're a Starbucks fan or a specialty coffee lover, you undoubtedly know the Dunkin' Donuts signature catchphrase: "American runs on Dunkin'." That's exactly why Steve Copoulos, owner of Mike's Coffee in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, thought he'd piggyback off the phrase with a joke: "North now runs on Mike's." Unfortunately, Dunkin’ didn’t think it was so funny. The coffee giant has ordered a cease-and-desist claiming trademark infringement, according to The Sun Chronicle. When Copoulos reopened his business, a customer joked, "Now that you're back, I guess North runs on Mike's." Copoulos liked the phrase and made some window art out of it in front of his shop, but he had no idea it would turn into a legal debacle.

The letter states: “Displaying ‘Plainville & North now runs on Mike’s’ creates a likelihood of confusion among consumers by implying that you are an approved vendor of ours. Your actions are clearly designed to trade on the goodwill and reputation associated with the America Runs on Dunkin’ trademark and constitutes both trademark infringement and trademark dilution.”

Copoulos told TheChronicle that this sentiment couldn’t be farther from the truth, adding that this was "never about Dunkin' Donuts": "I want to be the exact opposite: A friendly and happy place where you can talk to the owner. I want my customers to come in here knowing they can get a good cup of coffee in a comfortable environment."

Copoulos thinks the letter may be a move by Dunkin' to put a shop in his place, as he had leased the building to Dunkin' in the past. The company wanted to buy the building, adding that they'd move down the treet if he didn't sell, but he refused. "They want every corner and they don't want any competition," Copoulos said. "Because with no competition, you can do anything you want. They always said they're not afraid, but according to this letter, I'm a threat to them...It keeps me on my toes."