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Monday, July 22, 2024

A Legal Battle Over Mochi Muffins, Intellectual Property, and Cultural Appropriation

Third Culture Bakery Lawsuit

Very recently, there was this Third Culture Bakery lawsuit, which not only grabbed the attention of food lovers, but law students as well because it was kind of unique. You see, this case is all about claims that people stole ideas and used cultural features in the wrong way. For those who don’t understand, intellectual property theft is when someone takes someone else’s product or idea without their permission. When parts of a culture are used without respect or understanding, this is called cultural appropriation. They can happen in any field, even in the food world, as this Third Culture Bakery Lawsuit shows.


What’s the Story?

Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu, two people who moved to the United States from Indonesia, opened Third Culture Bakery. They made the “mochi muffin,” a tasty treat that became popular right away. This mochi muffin combines traditional Indonesian flavors with American influences to make a tasty, gluten-free cake that foodies and social media stars enjoy, you know? And for that very reason, the bakery in Berkeley got a lot of fans and became well-known in the food world.


Why The Legal Drama?

A less well-known baker said that Third Culture Bakery stole the idea for the mochi muffin, which is what started the problems. This bakery owner said that Third Culture not only copied the recipe but also used similar branding and marketing, which made customers even more confused. Third Culture started telling other small businesses that sold mochi muffins to stop using the name by giving them letters that said “do not use.”


And it went even further because, in 2019, Stella + Mochi tried to get Third Culture Bakery to give up its claim on the name “mochi muffin,” saying it was too general. Brand names should be protected by trademarks, but not if the word just talks about the product. Though Stella + Mochi finally found a home with Third Culture Bakery, the specifics are being kept secret.


What Does Intellectual Property Theft Mean?

The claim of intellectual property theft is what this lawsuit is all about. The baker who was upset said that Third Culture Bakery stole their idea for a product. Many areas, like food, have a lot of intellectual property theft because it’s hard to tell the difference between inspiration and copying. And yes, as you can already guess, to explain themselves, Third Culture Bakery said that their mochi muffin is a one-of-a-kind creation made from a creative mix of flavors from around the world.


Why Does This Lawsuit Focus On Cultural Appropriation And Why Does It Even Matter?

The charge of cultural plunder is also a big part of this case. How and why? Well, some people say that even though the founders of Third Culture Bakery are from Indonesia, they didn’t fully recognize the mochi muffin’s cultural roots. Cultural appropriation is when people from a different culture use parts of another culture, usually without fully knowing or respecting them, that’s the main problem. Third Culture Bakery defended their use of the term “Third Culture,” which refers to their position as immigrants and the mix of Indonesian and American cultures. They say that the food at their bakery celebrates differences and helps people find new ethnic identities.


Parul is an experienced blogger, author and lawyer who also works as an SEO content writer, copywriter and social media enthusiast. She creates compelling legal content that engages readers and improves website visibility. Linkedin

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