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Legal Dispute Between Montana Coffee Traders and Ghost Town Goes Public


A legal issue that has quietly simmered between two Montana coffee roasting companies since May spilled into the public sphere this week, with both companies saying they’ve received negative backlash.

On Dec. 8, the owners of Bozeman-based Ghost Town Coffee Roasters – which operates three coffee bars serving locally roasted coffee — created a GoFundMe campaign in an attempt to recoup more than $23,000 in legal penalties.

Those penalties stem from a United States District Court of Montana (Butte Division) order in August, which came three months after an initial trademark infringement suit filed by attorneys representing Montana Coffee Traders, based in Whitefish.

Montana Coffee Traders — whose corporate address is registered in Texas in alignment with its sibling company, Texas Coffee Traders — accused Ghost Town of illegally using the name “Glacier” for one of its blends, alleging trademark infringement.

The company says Ghost Town representatives ignored an initial cease-and-desist letter sent in April, as well as the legal charges that followed.

The U.S. District Court granted the Montana Coffee Traders lawyers’ motion for a default judgement, and in August ordered Ghost Town to pay $20,148 in attorneys fees. Additionally, the court ordered Ghost Town to immediately discontinue the sale, distribution and marketing of coffee bearing the “Glacier” name.

According to court filings approximately three months later, Montana Coffee Traders attorneys said they did not receive the payment, and they successfully motioned for a writ of execution, allowing legal authorities to collect the debt from Ghost Town and its owners.

roasted coffee

In their GoFundMe, which last week raised $27,578, the Ghost Town owners suggested they were sideswiped by the court orders, nor did they ever intend to inappropriately use the “Glacier” name.

“This past week a ruling was made without our knowledge that our business checking account be garnished for the full amount of the lawsuit, leaving us heartbroken and scrambling to replace these lost funds,” Ghost Town Owners Chad Kimm and Clarissa Englehart wrote. “The amount we are asking for is what was pulled from our account.”

In a series of Instagram posts yesterday, the Ghost Town owners said they were indeed presented with “large packets of legal documents” from Montana Coffee Traders’ attorneys, yet struggled to find timely legal representation. They also contend that personal communications to representatives of Montana Coffee Traders were ignored amidst the legal dispute.

“We put too much stock in humans being good humans and were confident we could come up with a quick resolution to this matter. Instead, we were buried with legal paperwork,” a message signed by the owners said. 

Later, the message continued, “Nothing we did in regard to this matter was done with malice, ill intent, or any notion of deliberate sabotage of their trademark or Montana Coffee Traders themselves. We simply got caught up in being busy people who run a busy business while trying to keep our fantastic crew supported and missed a key deadline to respond.”

Following Ghost Town’s GoFundMe launch, Montana Coffee Traders replied with a series of public messages conveying its side of the story, including a FAQ page on its website under the headline “RECENT TRADEMARK ISSUE.”

“False information is being spread over a business dispute with Ghost Town Coffee Roasters regarding our trademarked brand name for our Glacier blend of coffee,” the company wrote. “We want to communicate the sincere, repeated efforts we made to easily resolve this issue while being repeatedly ignored. The court was also ignored. We are disappointed this couldn’t have been handled more professionally and without a lot of drama.”

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