I am a creative. Not a lawyer.
I recently reached out to a copyright attorney. There are things that I cannot speak about, but I did ask some questions that arise on a daily basis (usually from my Instagram and TIK TOK followers!).
I’ve done my own research on this, and I am confident in my findings. But, let’s talk about the nitty-gritty on selling Starbucks cups on Etsy and other platforms.
Is it Legal to Sell Starbucks Cups on Etsy?
Let’s start with a back story…
7 years ago, I became a stay at home mom. Keith is a firefighter and we made financial sacrifices so that we could survive on one income.
We had several Disney DVD’s around the house. This was a time where DVD’s were still a big thing and digital downloads were just being integrated into society. As a family, we try not to put a lot of value on electronics and television. So, I took the DVD’s that we owned and sold them on EBAY.
Here’s what happened.
I listed Disney’s The Little Mermaid (and others) with a photo of the DVD case and DVD.
And I sold it.
It doesn’t matter if I sold it for $10 or $1000. I purchased it for the price Disney was willing to sell it for, and I resold it.
This is called the FIRST SALE DOCTRINE.
So, I go to Starbucks and buy 100 Venti Cups. I take them home. Embellish them. And sell them on Etsy.
How is that different from what I did 7 years ago on EBAY?
Starbucks has created affordable cups. Crafters (and everyone else) buys them for $2+, which Starbucks has deemed an appropriate price point for them to profit.
I have often said, “Using their trademarked name in your listing is a grey area.” When re-selling items, you are allowed to use an “appropriate” amount of their trademarked information to advise people what they are buying. For example, using the term “STARBUCKS” in your listing or keywords. You are appropriately describing the product you are selling.
Let’s Break it Down More
Style 1: Placing a decal around the Starbucks logo
– Falls under the First Sale Doctrine. “The first sale doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109, provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner.”
Style 2: Adding other characters on or around the Starbucks logo
– If you are adding Disney characters or other copyrighted images, you are copyright infringing by re-creating/editing/altering these images. This includes images that are “inspired by.” You shouldn’t be adding Disney characters to any of your artwork. Make your own shit!
Style 3: Decals that recreate the Starbucks logo
– You are copyright infringing by re-creating/editing/altering the actual Starbucks logo and design.
Under this distribution system, the copyright holder remains the “owner” of all distributed copies. For this reason, alleged infringers should not be able to establish that any copies of these works have been the subject of a first sale.
Starbucks is never going to release a statement saying, “Yes, gurl! Get it! Sell my cups and make money.” They’re a huge company and have to protect their brand.
At the end of the day, you have to make your own decision. Weigh the consequences – good and bad. I have been selling Starbucks cups for 5 years… and it has been a great base for my business and a great way to make extra money.