The Legality of “Dumb Starbucks”

By now, pretty much everyone has heard about how Comedy Central star Nathan Fielder opened his personal version of a Starbucks in an L.A. strip mall. Fielder’s “Dumb Starbucks” looked just like a real Starbucks – same logos, colors, store layouts, and similar products and menu. With the exception that everything was preceded by the word “dumb”, including the “Dumb Blonde Roast” coffee and the “Dumb Norah Jones” CDs on sale by the register.  Also, the coffee was free.

Fielder kept his involvement under wraps at first. But by Monday he revealed his ownership, and by Tuesday the L.A. County Board of Health had shut him down for operating without a license. And yet, while Dumb Starbucks lived, it created a sensation, with lines snaking down the street and Fielder invited onto Jimmy Kimmel to talk about his adventure.

Starbucks itself was not amused. “We are aware of this store, and it is not affiliated with Starbucks. We are evaluating next steps, and while we appreciate the humor, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark.” Starbucks spokeswoman Laurel Harper said in a statement. When pressed on whether Starbucks intends to take legal action, she replied, “That may happen. We’re not sure at this point.”

We've Finally Made the Big Time

The Onion makes fun of Freakonomics.

The Vigilantes of Comedy: A Guest Post

Kal Raustiala, a Professor at UCLA Law School and the UCLA International Institute, and Chris Sprigman, a Professor at the University of Virginia Law School, are counterfeiting and intellectual property experts. They have been guest-blogging for us about copyright issues; this week they write about an alternative method of enforcing intellectual property rights.

Wasting Time: Priceless

A technical change can raise well-being yet lower G.D.P. I realized this when I spent time watching and re-watching the Saturday Night Live take-off on the recording session of “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” For some reason I find this Will Ferrell/Christopher Walken spoof hilarious; and I’ve also “wasted” time watching some of the Mastercard “Priceless” […]

None of the Recent Posts on This Blog Were April Fools' Jokes …

But this one is. At least I hope so. Otherwise I just lost myself a co-author. Excerpt: Continuing to make bold moves in the first 100 days of his administration, Obama will announce this week two blockbuster appointments to senior positions at the Department of Treasury. Sure to raise eyebrows will be the appointment of […]

And Sarah

My family is somewhat obsessed with all things Sarah Dooley. We were first won over by her oddly moving songs. Check out this love song, “Watching Goonies at My House.” But she is also writing and staring in her own comedies. As an undergraduate at Barnard College, she has started posting to YouTube a series […]

Correlation vs. Causality: The Cartoon Version

I don’t know why, but academic economists just love to use cartoons in their presentations. I would guess that one out of three academic seminars includes a cartoon, and if it is a plenary talk, a cartoon is virtually guaranteed. I don’t have anything specifically against cartoons, but to the best of my recollection, I […]

Bring Your Questions For Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette is a magician, comedian, actor, producer and, generally, a curator of interesting and intelligent things. But he is best known as the self-described "larger, louder" half of Penn & Teller, a stage show that Penn and his magician partner Teller Jillette have put on since 1975. It currently plays at the Rio in Vegas. I saw it there not long ago, and it was phenomenal.

Bush Congratulates Krugman

Yesterday, President Bush invited the most recent round of Nobel laureates to the White House to accept his congratulations. And yes, this included his trenchant critic and economics prize-winner, Paul Krugman. Photo from This photo posted on (from Agence France-Presse) makes me wish I were better at reading body language. I’m going to […]

To Be a Legendary Cartoonist, You Do Not Need to Be Good at Math

There’s been a hubbub about an upcoming Doonesbury strip that Garry Trudeau has drawn for publication in many newspapers on Wednesday, the day after election day. It goes out on a limb and assumes an Obama victory. The L.A. Times reports that some newspapers are reluctant to take a chance and schedule the strip, in […]