SDN Communications, a South Dakota based regional fiber network, takes its name and accompanying intellectual property rights very seriously. So much so, they are taking on the global brand Starbucks over Starbucks’ use of the acronym SDN.

The SDN Communications name legacy comes from South Dakota Network (SDN), the original company that was formed by independent telcos in the state to aggregate fiber network assets – a strategy followed in many other states. South Dakota Network LLC does business as SDN Communications.

Starbucks covets the SDN name as well, by way of the Starbucks Digital Network (SDN), an in-store network of digital content offering ‘premium’ content across six different channels – News, Entertainment, Wellness, Business & Careers, My Neighborhood and Starbucks. outlines the whole SDN Communications – Starbucks legal stare down. SDN struck first, sending a cease and desist letter to Starbucks over the use of the acronym SDN, for which they claim several trademarks. Starbucks recently struck back, filing a lawsuit in Nebraska. Starbucks wants the federal court to declare that their use of SDN as an acronym for the Starbucks Digital Network does not violate U.S. trademark laws or infringe on SDN Communications’ trademarks. Then there’s that pesky little issue of who should pay legal fees. Starbucks says SDN should pay theirs. I suspect SDN cares to differ.

“We intend to defend our trademark that we secured,” Vernon Brown, marketing director for SDN Communications tells “We’ve tried to come to an agreement with them, to no avail. It shocked us that suddenly, they were suing us. We’re this home-grown, rural South Dakota company that did its trademark homework.”

You have to love the ‘David vs. Goliath’ feel to this spat, especially since SDN struck first. Stay tuned…

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