MOMACHA Responds to MoMA Lawsuit, Raises Stakes with Expansion

Posted on: May 30th, 2018 at 5:09 am by

March 2018

Down on the Bowery, a tiny tea shop has ruffled the feathers of the Museum of Modern Art.

MOMACHA, the months-old matcha cafe and “exhibition space,” opened with little fanfare at 312 Bowery, yet quickly attracted a legal response. MoMA filed a lawuit in Manhattan federal court in April, accusing the establishment of willfully “infringing its famous trademarked name and trade dress that date to at least 1967 and appear in exhibition communications, retail goods and its restaurant The Modern.” The musuem seeks a preliminary inunction based on this alleged trademark infringement.

Cafe ownership, for its part, responded yesterday, stating that, “to obtain a preliminary injunction, the MoMA must show a likelihood of consumer confusion, and the MoMA has not made and cannot make this showing.”

When asked if there would be a name-change, owner Eric Cahan quipped that this wouldn’t happen.

From the mailbag:

MOMACHA is a café and exhibition space on the Lower East Side that combines matcha tea, sweet treats and interactive art. The name derives from the words “more” and “matcha,” which was inspired by the daughter of MOMACHA investor, Nev Shulman, who partnered with Eric Cahan and Graj + Gustavsen to launch MOMACHA back in March.

MOMACHA hit back at MoMA’s claims by stating that before registering ‘MOMACHA’, they retained an attorney who conducted a trademark search to ensure that the name did not conflict with any other registered trademarks and were advised the name did not pose any issue with the trademark rights of the MoMA. Moreover, MOMACHA stated that “the visual elements and content of MoMA’s marks are the same or strikingly similar to those of other marks used by contemporary art museums throughout the country,” such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami.

According to MOMACHA’s counsel, Christopher B. Spuches of Agentis PLLC, MOMACHA has “bent over backwards at considerable cost” to ensure there is no confusion between the café and museum. For example, MOMACHA has created two new logos, which have been applied to staff t-shirts, hats and bags, as well as on menus, cups, point-of-sale receipts, social media accounts and their website. Plus, they have put a message across all social media accounts notifying the public that it has no affiliation with the MoMA (i.e, “Not affiliated with the Museum of Art or any Museum.”)

It then raised the stakes by announcing an expansion that includes three additional locations citywide with different artists “on rotation.” Perhaps this whole stunt is a convoluted attempt at gaining publicity?

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