In Brief

Café Forced to Change Name After Court Sides with MoMA on Trademark Violation

The museum accused café and gallery formerly known as “MoMaCha” of copying the institution in bad faith.

The Museum of Modern Art's logo on a banner along West 53rd Street (left, photo by Casper Moller/Wikimedia Commons) and MoMaCha's logo on its storefront (right, photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)
The Museum of Modern Art’s logo on a banner along West 53rd Street (left, photo by Casper Moller/Wikimedia Commons) and MoMaCha’s original logo on its storefront on Bowery Street (right, photo by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

MoMaCha, the infamous café known for its lengthy legal battle with the Museum of Modern Art, is no more — at least not under that title. The café, noted for its CBD lattes and matcha drinks, will be known as MaMaCha after a court ruled the tearoom had infringed on MoMA’s trademark name and logo design.

The café and art gallery hybrid came under legal fire in April (its first month of business) from the museum giant after receiving an initial letter of cease and desist. MoMA accused the Lower East Side coffee shop of acting “with full knowledge of and intent to cause harm to MoMA,” saying the museum would suffer “harm to its name, reputation, and goodwill.”

MoMA accused MoMaCha’s name of hybridizing “MoMA” and “cha” (a term commonly known to mean tea), but the café said it was a condensation of the phrase “more matcha.”

After the initial accusations, the cafe changed its logo. Instead of using its original Helvetica font, which closely resembles the custom “MoMA Gothic,” it began using a stencil-like font to re-brand and distance itself from the museum in the wake of the trademark infringement allegations.

MAMACHA’s second logo (left) and new/third logo (right) (Screenshot of mamacha.nyc)

On September 28, US district judge for the Southern District of New York, Louis L. Stanton, issued a preliminary injunction against the café.

“The close proximity of the parties’ goods and services is likely to result in the belief that MOMACHA is connected with the museum,” the judge said, according to artnet News. “It is more likely than not that MOMACHA intentionally copied the Museum’s mark in bad faith when it adopted its old logo. 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.”

The café will operate under the name MaMaCha until the legal proceedings commence, and has changed its logo again to further distance itself from the museum’s distinct logo.

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