Food

Third Culture Bakery in the Bay Area

After news stories investigated the obstacles that the trademark has put on small companies that sell the product, the proprietors of Third Culture Bakery said that they are “reevaluating” the trademark on their famous mochi muffin.

“There have been two back-to-back articles regarding our trademark that have incited a lot of harassment and false claims,” said owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu in a joint statement posted on Instagram on Sunday. “It is important to us and the communities we’re in to share the specifics that were not included in the article.”

Third Culture Bakery, which successfully trademarked the term “mochi muffins” in 2018, has faced a barrage of criticism from across the internet since last week, when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a number of small businesses had received cease-and-desist letters from Third Culture Bakery for using the term “mochi muffin” on their menus. (Hearst owns both SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle, but they operate separately.)

Among them was San Jose’s CA Bakehouse, which was instructed to cease using the term “mochi muffin” immediately or risk legal action. The year of the occurrence is unknown, but Kevin Lam, the proprietor of CA Bakehouse, informed the Chronicle that he had changed the name regrettably. Following the publication of the news, CA Bakehouse issued a message on Instagram thanking their consumers for their support but expressing that they had no intention of causing harm to Third Culture Bakery.

“We wanted to add some clarification,” said the message. “SF Chronicle had approached us for our thoughts on the trademark. We said that we were not lovers of the trademark and that we feel common words such as ‘banana bread’ should be allowed for commercial usage. We weren’t anticipating this to be a major item, and we certainly didn’t want it to hurt another local company. Third Culture is a fantastic local bakery, and we’ve had no problems with them other than the entire trademarking thing a few years back.”

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Despite CA Bakehouse’s efforts, several people expressed their disgust for Third Culture Bakery in the comments. Third Culture Bakery was referred to as “bullies” by some commentators, while others threatened to boycott the company.

Third Culture Bakery’s Instagram post on Sunday did not mention CA Bakehouse or any of the particular companies mentioned in the Chronicle’s investigation. Third Culture Bakery, on the other hand, said that it never planned to sue any eatery.

“We have had many friendly exchanges with other businesses on Instagram and emails where we’ve asked them to change the name of the singular menu item they were selling,” stated the company. “There were no instances where we were threatening anyone’s existence or their entire business or threatening to shut a small business down through litigation, as insinuated through the articles and what is being thrown around online currently.”

Third Culture Bakery further said that after the news outlets surfaced, it had “severed ties” with its legal company due to the practices used by the firm in charge of its trademark. “Their recent strategies did not align with our values and why we pursued and wanted the trademark in the first place.”

Third Culture Bakery officially copyrighted their mochi muffin in 2018 after it caught the Bay Area by storm when it initially debuted in 2016. The chewy mochi snack is available in a variety of flavors, including matcha, ube, black sesame, and the iconic original taste. According to Third Culture Bakery, the dessert is an original invention of Butarbutar, who was inspired by the tastes of his childhood pastries and his relationship to his mother.

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