Dunkin' Donuts vs Duffin' Dagels

Spain has a very strange relationship with copyright, not just the obvious stuff like 88% of all media consumed here being pirated. We're talking about pirating an entire brand...


I can almost hear people’s eyes glaze over when I tell them I’m interested in Copyright and Patent Laws.

I’ve been into it for years. I discovered what the ™ Trademark symbol meant after a kid in my class flaunted a He-Man drawing he alleged drew...but the little fool included the ™ as MT. It was flipped, it was traced.

When you are the best artist in the classroom you need to deal with tracers mercilessly.

The book Console Wars (full of juicy legal and patent minutiae) opens with Tom Kalinkse in a Barcelona taxi. As the newly appointed head of Matchbox he was investigating why those dopey model cars sold steadily around the world but not in Spain.

Yep, there was an entire illegal factory dedicated to knocking off die-cast Matchbox cars for the Spanish market. They hijacked the brand and intellectual property on such a brazen level that it went unnoticed for years.

So when I saw Duffin Dagels pop up in a local shopping centre I was amused but not surprised that it would not be challenged as a Dunkin’ Donuts rip-off.

I think it’s been there for at least 5 years now. Several times I wondered if it really was a subsidiary of Dunkin’ Donuts. They sell donuts (but they call them “duffins” not donuts) dressed up as licensed characters like Minions and Cookie Monster etc.

My Spanish doesn’t stretch to asking the spotty teen behind the counter about the brand name registration but he did tell it was a franchise.


I was giddy with malicious joy when I saw Dunkin’ Coffee open last year in a different shopping centre. It’s a swanky, polished operation...everything about it screams quality.

This knock-off Dunkin’ Donuts makes Duffin Dagels look like a knockoff of a badly traced He-Man t-shirt.

I couldn’t wait to get home and start snooping.

To give you some context about where I live; Murcia is consistently the butt of jokes for being the home of the nation’s hapless farmers and ugly women. It’s still one of the less cosmopolitan parts the country, the first Starbucks opened about six months ago. Sushi is a relatively new thing here. Plainly put: it’s a nice place to live.

The plot thickens

Now let me peel back the sugary chocolate coating on this international brand mystery.

Dunkin’ Coffee IS actually Dunkin’ Donuts operational name for Spain. It’s legit.

But why the name change? I thought it had to be for phonetic reasons; brand names are often changed for pronunciation reasons but “donut” is easy to say no?

Panrico, a massive Spanish company holds ownership of “Donut” as a trademark. They have been around for 40 years so to the average man on the street in Spain, a Donut is synonymous with Panrico and their products.

But what about Duffin’ Dagels? Can it be contested that a “duffin” is not a donut and that Murcians clearly know the difference between a Panrico donut, Dunkin’ Coffee’s visual brand and the similar Duffin’ Dagels wordmark?

Believe it or not I think Duffin Dagels can win it.


Bob @clamnuts

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