ROME (CNS) In an unexpected move, today the Franciscan Order filed suit against the Starbucks chain of coffee houses, enjoining them to refrain from using the name “cappucino” to identify their cream-topped espresso product.
Friar Roberto Pascattio, spokesman for the Order, explained that the Franciscans like a good cup of espresso as much as the next person.
“But ‘cappucino’ is a description based on a brand that the Franciscans have been cultivating for centuries.” Cappucino is so named after its resemblance to the cowled, brown-robed monks of the Capuchin Friars, a branch of the Franciscan Order. The name of the coffee drink derives either from the brown color of the monks’ robes, or the pointed crown of steamed milk that resembles the Capuchin hood. “After we’ve spent centuries building up the name recognition of our spiritual movement for simpler living, these people pirate our name and our trademark pointed hood and the goodwill associated with them, just to identify an over-priced cup of coffee.”
The Capuchins are a branch of the Franciscan Order. They were founded in the early sixteenth century as a reform movement among the Franciscans, dedicated to returning to strict observance of St. Francis’s ideals. They adopted a long, pointed hood in contrast to the close, rounded hood that more relaxed Franciscans wore. The people among whom the reformers worked nicknamed them for their hoods — “Scappuccini” — and that nickname became part of their official designation as a religious order, the Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin.
Prominent Capuchins in history include St.. Bernard of Corleone, and Padre Pio, who was recently canonized by Pope John Paul II.
In Seattle, Starbucks lawyer Thomas Billingsgate soft-pedalled the suit. “Starbucks has a latte good will toward these spiritual seekers, but everyone knows you can’t make intellectual property claims on varieties of coffee, apart from Frappucino®, Caffè Verona®, and other proprietary formulations.”
Br. Roberto indicated that Starbucks was only the first in a series of possible trademark enforcement targets for the Order. “Next, we’re looking into negotiations with those monkeys.”