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A court battle with corporate coffee giant Starbucks over intellectual property rights became a blessing in disguise for a famous coffee stall once named "Starbung Coffee".
Roadside coffee vendor Damrong Maslae, previously known only among locals and tourists on Phra Athit Road, was painted as a hero of the small people on social media sites over a trademark infringement case against the multinational coffee chain.
Damrong continued to use his copycat logo for over a year despite the legal objection of Starbucks. The street barista eventually relented, surprising his customers by changing the name of his stall to "Bung's Tears", and putting up a sign showing a man in a Muslim cap crying. This replaced the few-week-old "Style Bung Coffee" sign, which was the initial substitution of the contentious "Starbung" logo.
At the lower right corner of the "Bung's Tears" sign, however, text informs us that the sign is just a temporary one. Some liked the new logo for its sarcasm, while others disapproved of it for being too sad.
"I need to keep my sense of humour on the logo," said the 43-year-old owner.
Though the months-long case's outcome disappointed some of Damrong's social media fans and customers, the out-of-court settlement with Starbucks has had a positive impact on the street vendor.
While Starbucks successfully maintained its trademark, Damrong won international recognition, being featured in media across the globe, including Time's newsfeed, The Guardian and the South China Morning Post.
"This is a win-win case," said Wutnipong Warakraisawad, director of administrative affairs at Bangkok University's School of Entrepreneurship and Management. "Bung became known to the crowd outside [Damrong's] neighbourhood."
As an underdog being sued by a giant, Damrong garnered much support from those who admired his bravery in his fight against the business titan. Some, on the other hand, found the sign too similar to that of Starbucks', believing Damrong should indeed take down the green logo, which he claimed represented his Islamic religion.
Starting his coffee stall without a name in 2008, Damrong was given the nickname "Starbung" by young customers from the nearby universities. "Bung" is a friendly term meaning "brother" in Malay.