Alleged uncanny similarities between Starbucks' new "local" brand extension, 15th Street Coffee & Tea, have gotten some play in TM-land. The story has associated weirdnesses--protesters so odd I can't tell whether they're faux or serious--but I'm much more interested in the sign on the front door: "15th Ave Coffee & Tea--inspired by Starbucks."
Isn't "inspired by" usually used to indicate a different source? Are reasonable consumers likely to think this is or isn't a Starbucks company? If they think it is, does that mean that makers of knockoff perfumes and other fashion items are in trouble--is Starbucks pushing the language in a trademark-expansive direction? If consumers think it isn't Starbucks, are they suffering any harm?
Below: a picture I took of "inspired by" perfumes. Click to see what you think.