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Students give legal help in ice cream case

MIKE GIDALY/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Jamie Guice, 18, prepares a shake at Santa Barbara Creamery yesterday. The ice-cream shop is being sued by Baskin Robbins for using Baskin Robbins cake boxes with the logo blacked out.
By Greg Holt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday September 22, 2003

Seven UA law students are taking the side of a local ice cream store in its feud with Baskin-Robbins, the world's largest chain of ice cream specialty stores.

Baskin-Robbins is suing Jo Jenson, owner of Santa Barbara Ice Creamery located at 2502 N. Campbell Ave., just north of East Grant Road, for copyright infringement because her store sold an ice cream cake in a Baskin-Robbins box.

"I primarily wanted to do it just to help her out. It's a small business against a huge company," said Ryan Hurley, one of the law students assisting Jenson's attorney Cornelia Wallis Honchar.

Hurley said he found out through the law school's career services that a local attorney was looking for research help with the case. Being a regular customer at Santa Barbara, he already knew of the fight against Baskin-Robbins and jumped at the chance to help.

"I'm working on discovery, which is basically getting the information the other side will be using against us," Hurley said. "It's provided law students an opportunity to get some real world education."

Jenson is not new to legal battles with the world's largest chain of ice cream stores. She ran a Baskin-Robbins franchise on the site for 16 years, only to be stripped of her franchise when the corporate office deemed the location undesirable.

To stay in business, Jenson began to supply her store with McConnell's Fine Ice Cream of Santa Barbara, a popular brand in California.

In a lawsuit three years ago, Baskin-Robbins claimed that Jenson violated a clause in her franchise contract that stated she could not run an ice cream store on the same location for two years after losing the Baskin-Robbins franchise. She sold the store to a friend and continued to work as an employee until the two years passed by.

"In the first lawsuit, they didn't want a store in this location anymore. Now, three years later after road construction is finished, they're looking for a new location," Jenson said.

Jenson once again will face Baskin-Robbins in court because she packaged some ice cream cakes in boxes left over from the days she operated the Baskin-Robbins franchise.

"I didn't know I was doing anything wrong. I was just using up old boxes. I only had a few of them," Jenson said.

Jenson put a Santa Barbara label over the Baskin-Robbins label on the box and crossed out the copyright and Baskin-Robbins phone number with a black marker, said Charles Wirken, a Phoenix attorney representing Baskin-Robbins in the case.

"You couldn't take a CD by, say, Alanis Morrisette and put your name on it. They took our box and put Santa Barbara on it. It's the artwork that's copyrighted, its all part of the brand image," Wirken said.

Wirken said that using the boxes to package another company's products confuses customers about what it is they're buying.

"Number one, she wasn't supposed to use (the boxes). She was supposed to return them," Wirken said. "It obliterated our copyright notice on the box. That's notice to the world that it's a Baskin-Robbins product."

Jenson sees the lawsuit as an attempt to drive a competitor, with less money to fight legal battles, out of business.

"They just don't want the competition. They're bullying a single mom-and-daughter store," Jenson said.

Facing two lawsuits and the recent construction project on North Campbell Avenue has been an exhausting experience for the ice cream shop owner, Jenson said. Yet, she added, through it all, the combination of her determination and her customers' loyal support has kept her ice cream shop operating.

"Our customers are truly our extended family. If it wasn't for customers, I wouldn't have worked as hard as I have to keep this place open," Jenson said. "I get a lot of positive feedback from customers, and it makes it all worthwhile."

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