Monday, May 27, 2024

MT Coffee Traders appreciates the support

| December 13, 2023 1:00 AM

To our loyal customers and friends,

Our team at Montana Coffee Traders has had a recent business dispute with Ghost Town Coffee Roasters regarding our trademarked brand name for our Glacier® Blend of coffee. We want to clarify information and communicate the sincere, repeated efforts we made to easily resolve this issue while being repeatedly ignored. 

Online, we have received threats of violence and other abuse. Many of those posting were likely getting information from Ghost Town’s GoFundMe page post, which distorts information, ignores crucial facts, and in some instances, fabricates events. There were also suggestions to give us fake reviews on Yelp and Google, as well as boycott our business.

We ask everyone to be respectful and not post anything with ill intent toward Ghost Town. We simply want the accurate facts to be understood and to protect our employees, company, and brand. Here is the story:

We began selling this brand in 1982 and received a federal trademark registration from the United States Patent & Trademark Office, recognizing our exclusive right to use Glacier® for coffee nationwide in 1999. If a company does not defend a trademark, it may lose its business, reputation, sales, and customers. Not defending a trademark also dilutes a brand and confuses consumers. Trademarks aren't automatically safeguarded. You need to actively defend them to maintain their exclusivity. 

There is a common misconception that ownership of a trademark cannot apply to a “common” word. Ownership of a trademark is only limited to a specific product or service. Common terms are actually used as trademarks all the time. For instance, “apple” is a common word, but Apple® is a trademark for computers. Accordingly, while Montana Coffee Traders’ Glacier® trademark does not prevent people from using “glacier” as a common word, it does prevent others from selling coffee under an identical or confusingly similar brand.

Montana Coffee Traders is a small, local business with four locations in the Flathead Valley. We’ve proudly been selling our Glacier® Blend coffee for over 40 years. Our founders established the company in a small farmhouse in Whitefish in 1981. The couple moved to Texas in 1994, where they established Texas Coffee Traders. The company has always been Montana-run, with approximately 100 local employees.

We contacted Ghost Town in April and May 2023, asking them to choose another name. We sent two different registered letters that were signed for by the owners and they were ignored. They were also emailed to the owners' email addresses listed on their website.

The 4-page letter was concise, kind, and direct, and included two illustrations of the coffee in question, with a 2-page attachment documenting the trademark. Our lawyer kindly suggested ways to find branding legal advice, stated that we would prefer to resolve the issue amicably and that we would not pursue any claims for monetary relief. We simply asked for an initial response and to immediately cease the use of the trademark in question.

After no response from Ghost Town for over two months, we chose to file a lawsuit in June to ensure Ghost Town would stop selling coffee with the same name as our signature blend.

Despite having ample notice and the option to request extensions, Ghost Town never answered the lawsuit. Instead, they chose to ignore the court for over two months and continued to sell their own Glacier coffee for four months after receiving our first letter.

Given their repeated non-response, the court quickly ruled in our favor. Instead of asking the court for damages, we only asked for legal expenses, which could have been avoided if they had responded at any point. The court agreed that the request was fair and reasonable and ordered Ghost Town to pay our legal costs.

After the court’s decision, we were finally contacted by a lawyer representing Ghost Town and we agreed they could have a payment plan. But once again, they chose to refrain from responding to us after that call. After three months, MCT went back to the court to inform them that Ghost Town was not responding regarding payment. It was at that point the court ordered Ghost Town’s bank to directly reimburse our legal costs. As of yet, we have not yet received any funds.

We appreciate the support of our community and customers.

– The Montana Coffee Traders management team