MoMA Sues NYC Art Gallery The Familiar Name Of… ‘MoMaCha’
Not everything in life is black and white, but the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is utterly convinced that a new café has infringed on its trademark.
Filed on Tuesday, the museum complained that a cease-and-desist letter to MoMaCha—a café and gallery in the Lower East Side—before its opening, fell on deaf ears.
“[MoMaCha’s] willful intent here is clear as there is no possibility that they were not aware of MoMA or its famous MOMA mark prior to starting their business earlier this month,” MoMA said in its filing, obtained by Reuters.
The museum claimed that MoMaCha was “blatantly” piggybacking on its “unquestionably famous” branding to promote its café and artworks.
It suspected that the business was hoping it would get “free publicity” if legal action was taken to halt the alleged violation.
It also cited that MoMaCha filed trademarks for “MOMA” and “MOMACHA” while being aware of the museum’s existence, and that there was “no question” it was targeting frequenters of MoMA’s museum, stores, and restaurants.
“[MoMaCha is] hoping to confuse [customers] into believing that Defendants’ MoMaCha art gallery and café has some connection to MoMA, when there is none,” the museum claimed.
The name ‘MoMaCha’ is a play on “more matcha,” as the business specializes in Japanese green teas. Like the museum, MoMaCha uses a black-and-white Helvetica logo—but its owner, Eric Cahan, believes the differences stop there.
“I don’t understand what MoMA wants from us,” Cahan told Hyperallergic.
“They don’t own the word ‘cha,’ it means tea; they don’t own the word ‘more.’ To me it’s a little confusing. They can have [Instagram curator] Richard Prince in their collection, but I can’t use Helvetica? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Unfortunately, MoMA’s viewpoint contradicts the artist’s. It accused MoMaCha of intentionally wanting to “cause harm to its name, reputation, and goodwill,” and has ordered the café to change its name.
“All that they can make me do is change our logo,” Cahan replied. “Cool, I’ll do that on my own, no problem. I’m not going to stop everything I’m doing because MoMA doesn’t like my use of Helvetica.”