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Montana Coffee Companies Look to Move Past Trademark Dispute

Post Time:2024-01-02 Source:bozemandailychronicle.com Author:Patrick Bouman Views:

Two Montana coffee businesses are hoping to move on from a trademark dispute that lasted for several months and led one to solicit thousands of dollars from the public.

In April, Whitefish-based Montana Coffee Traders sent a cease and desist letter asking Bozeman-based Ghost Town Coffee Roasters to change the name of its new “Glacier” brand of coffee. MCT’s website said they have had a trademark for the name since 1999.

MCT provided the Chronicle with a receipt from FedEx, showing that Ghost Town co-owner Chad Kimm signed for the cease and desist letter after receiving it the next day. The letter requested a response within 10 business days.

In May, MCT sent a second letter asking for a response, which was not addressed, according to MCT’s timeline of events. MCT filed a lawsuit against Ghost Town on May 31.

Social media posts from Ghost Town claim that the business did not respond before the lawsuit arrived because it was struggling to find legal representation to help them.

In a Dec. 11 Facebook post, Ghost Town’s owners said they “immediately took action” to rebrand the new coffee blend after MCT contacted them, and said they did not deliberately violate the trademark.

Court documents from the case said Ghost Town did not meet deadlines to respond to the lawsuit, and so a judgement was made by default in favor of MCT in August.

“Due to Ghost Town’s willful and continued infringement after repeated notifications of infringement by Coffee Traders and due to Ghost Town’s disregard of the court process, the Court finds that ... Coffee Traders is entitled to recover its reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in prosecuting this matter,” District Court Judge Brian Morris wrote in his ruling.

On Nov. 8, Morris ordered Ghost Town to pay over $20,000 in attorney’s fees to MCT within 120 days.

Ghost Town launched a GoFundMe campaign on Dec. 8 to help recover from the legal fees. The GoFundMe page states that the company’s checking account would be garnished for the full amount of the lawsuit. The page has since received almost $28,000 in donations. In a Dec. 27 interview, Kimm said his business has paid the fees.

“We have not received that payment yet,” Maggie Schwenker, MCT’s wholesale and customer service manager, told the Chronicle. “It’s entirely possible that it’s somewhere in the process, but we have not yet received it, no.”

Kimm declined to comment on whether Ghost Town had used funds from GoFundMe to pay the fees or if the business planned to refund donors.

“We’re past the situation and we need to move on,” Kimm said. “... We’re trying to be respectful of Montana Coffee Traders and whatever they’ve experienced.”

MCT has locations in Whitefish, Kalispell and Colombia Falls, and Ghost Town has three Bozeman locations. Schwenker said MCT is also hoping to move on from the lawsuit.