Central Perk Coffee Shop in downtown St. Cloud has shared its name with a fictional coffee shop from the television show “Friends” for almost five years, but now it’s under pressure to change its name due to a trademark held by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Owners Alan and Odessa Scherr received a cease and desist letter at the end of March from Warner Bros. demanding they change their business name. The letter also demands the Scherrs remove an image of an orange couch, similar to one from the television show, from their website.
The name change was a hit to the Scherrs, but another blow came in mid-April when they learned their coffee roaster — Big Water Coffee Roasters in Bayfield, Wisconsin — was closing. So last week, the Scherrs made the hard decision to put the coffee shop up for sale.
“It was one of those perfect storms,” said Alan Scherr. “We did put up the coffee shop for sale as of ( April 23). I was planning on staying open until I got the news that our roaster was closing. From there it took the air out of my sail. My gas tank landed on empty after that.”
Since August 2013, Central Perk has been serving up hot coffee and tea, sandwiches, baked goods and ice cream at 912 West St. Germain St. in downtown St. Cloud. Scherr said they checked with a lawyer before opening their business to make sure the use of the name was allowed.
“We went to the lawyers, they said yes. We checked with the state and the name was available,” Scherr said. “I know it’s not the state’s job to go and see if it’s trademarked and all that stuff. It should have been the lawyer’s job. It was on our end that that happened.”
Scherr said the name idea came from his wife and Central Perk co-owner Odessa Scherr. He thought the name was a hat tip to Central Minnesota until she explained it was from the television show “Friends.”
“I’m not a fan of the show,” Scherr said. “I guess I’ve seen an episode.”
Warner Bros. said in its letter it obtained federal trademark registrations for Central Perk, including a Class 42 registration for restaurant services, in 2002.
So why did they wait until now to enforce their trademark?
“Their plans are — the way it sounds — is to go nationwide with Central Perks across the country,” Scherr said.
A more recent trademark registration in January shows Warner Bros. obtained a Class 35 registration for Central Perk that covers retail store services featuring coffee and related goods. A request for comment was not answered by Warner Bros.
Scherr said his deadline for the name change is July 1 and Central Perk will continue to operate as normal until a buyer is found for the business. He hopes whoever buys the shop will keep it open as a downtown coffee destination.
“Even if we don’t sell before the first of July, we’ll have to change the name.” Scherr said. “We’re trying to do it so that whoever gets it can actually decide what they want for a name without having to go through it (again) in a matter of just a few months.”
By Anna Haecherl, St. Cloud Times, Minn.
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