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Judge Rules in Favor of MoMA’s Copyright Infringement Suit Against Bowery Teashop MoMaCha

A Lower East Side tea shop formerly known as MoMaCha has been issued a preliminary injunction to stop using its name, logo, and website, momacha.com, as US district judge Louis L. Stanton sided with almost all of the accusations of copyright infringement brought forth by New York’s Museum of Modern Art against the business, reports Artnet.

MoMA filed a trademark-infringement lawsuit against the tea shop after its owners—photographer Eric Cahan, filmmaker Nev Schulman of MTV’s Catfish, and his wife, Laura Perlogo—opened its doors on the Bowery in April. The museum’s lawyers argued that the café’s logo was mimicking the signs and branding of the museum, which has been known as MoMA for nearly fifty years and has used its custom “MoMA Gothic” font since 2003. The museum’s lawyers also argued that the tea shop was “targeting the very visitors that frequent MoMA’s museum, stores, and restaurants,” and intentionally misleading people into thinking it was affiliated with the museum. They added that the café was “perhaps even hoping for some free publicity when MoMA inevitably takes additional steps to stop this blatant infringement,” reported the New York Times.

Though the teashop altered its logo and put signs on its website and in its café notifying patrons that it is not connected to the museum in May, its owners also responded that they had no intention of changing its name, which, according to them, refers to “more matcha,” not “MoMA” and “cha,” as the museum argued. “The MoMA’s marks are nothing more than four letters written in black and white, the colors ordinarily used to convey written words, in a font that is nearly identical to the widely available and commonly used Franklin Gothic font,” read the tea shop’s response.

Judge Stanton disagreed. “Both the museum and MOMACHA display modern artwork and offer cafe and beverage services in an art gallery setting,” he said on September 28, when he issued the preliminary injunction, which is in effect until the lawsuit is complete. He noted that both businesses “sell items in relation to the art they display. . . . The close proximity of the parties’ goods and services is likely to result in the belief that MOMACHA is connected with the museum.”

“It is more likely than not that MOMACHA intentionally copied the Museum’s mark in bad faith when it adopted its old logo,” the judge concluded. “It may later be rebutted, but on the present record it appears that MOMACHA’s similarity to the museum’s mark was not accidental, but purposive.”

In response to the judge’s injunction, MoMaCha has changed its name to MAMACHA.

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