The Space Needle Filed Suit Against a Seattle Coffee Shop Over a Similar-Looking Logo to the Landmark

The owner of Seattle's iconic space-age spire isn't asking for compensation, but it is asking Local Coffee Spot to redesign its cups.

Seattle, Washington skyline
Photo: Getty Images

The Space Needle has been the most recognizable part of Seattle's skyline for 60 years, and you can call it any number of things from "iconic" to "futuristic" to, uh, "tall." But the private owner of the space-age landmark has just added another descriptor to that long list: Plaintiff. According to the Seattle Times, the owner of the Space Needle has filed a lawsuit against a Seattle coffee shop, alleging that Local Coffee Spot's logo looks a bit too much like its own.

The lawsuit was filed in late May in U.S. District Court, and it suggests that Local Coffee Spot's purple and white branding — which features an abstract, Space Needle-ish bit of steam rising from a coffee cup — is too close to the Space Needle's own trademarked abstract design. "Like the Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle is a licensed trademark," Karen Olson, the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer for the Space Needle told Food & Wine. "When our trademark team sees the Space Needle being used without permission, we are obligated to contact the organization to request that they stop using the trademark."

Olson said that in her 10 years with the company, it has never had to file a legal complaint for a trademark violation. "The Space Needle is not trying to negatively impact someone's business, and we are not seeking monetary damages in the lawsuit," she said.

"Our goal has always been to work with Local Coffee Spot just as we've worked with other organizations; we want to help them show their civic pride while protecting the Space Needle's trademark." (Olson also directed Food & Wine to a website that showed other logos incorporating the Space Needle that had been successfully redesigned to feature the entire Seattle skyline, thus avoiding any trademark-related conflicts.)

She added that "for over a year," the Space Needle has tried to contact Local Coffee Spot and that the company has offered to help the coffee company develop a new logo. Despite the legal filing, Olson says that the Space Needle would still be willing to work with Local Coffee Spot to create new branding for their four shops. (The Space Needle's official logo can be seen on its social media accounts and in the official 60th anniversary video below.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Local Coffee Spot tells a different story about how the disagreement reached a point where attorneys had to get involved. Its co-owner Beau McKeon told the Seattle Times that he responded to the offer of design help, but that it was the Space Needle who didn't respond to follow-up emails. (He showed the Seattle Times correspondence that he said dated from last July, in which he asked the Space Needle's design team for "next steps.")

"We feel very, very victimized as the small guys," McKeon told the outlet. "This is beyond bullying." He added that Local Coffee Spot was "willing to comply" with the Space Needle's request but, unlike Starbucks, they weren't "making millions of dollars a year."

Food & Wine has reached out to Local Coffee Spot but as of this writing, we have not yet received a response.

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