‘Mochi Muffin’ Trademark Ignites Backlash for Asian- & LGBTQ-Owned Bakery

‘Mochi Muffin’ Trademark Ignites Backlash for Asian- & LGBTQ-Owned Bakery

A family owned small business based in California has been at the receiving end of online criticism from the public due to sending cease-and-desist letters to other small businesses regarding the use of trademarked term ‘mochi muffin’ to sell baked mochi goods. 

Third Culture Bakery, owned by husband-and-husband duo Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu, has since issued a statement on social media claiming that they have severed ties with their legal representatives and are currently rethinking what it means to own the ‘mochi muffin’ trademark

The news of Third Culture’s defense of their trademark was first published by the San Francisco Chronicle. It is reported that the affected business, CA Bakehouse based in San Jose, has changed the name of their product to ‘mochi cakes’ in fear of legal action. 

According to the publication, Third Culture has been active in protecting their trademark from third party food and beverage businesses ranging from restaurants, bakeries and even food bloggers. The bakery allegedly sent cease-and-desist letters to various businesses to halt the use of the term ‘mochi muffins’ in their trade. SF Chronicle claims that nearly all businesses complied with the request. 

Third Culture refuted accusations of taking other small businesses to court on their Instagram page amongst other ‘false claims’ published online. The bakery insists quotes were taken out of context: 

‘The recent articles had omitted some important key details we shared during our long phone interview, resulting in misleading representation of our intentions, our hearts, our values, our work within the AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities, and the origins of this trademark.’ 


The general public expressed their dissatisfaction with Third Culture’s alleged monopolization of a common, basic and traditional food item under the legal system. Many pointed out that the bakery did not invent mochi muffins and therefore should not gatekeep the use of the term. 

The Indoneisian-Taiwanese owned bakery trademarked ‘mochi muffin’ under USPTO back in 2018. According to Third Culture, the ‘mochi muffin’ trademark originated from memories of baking between Butarbutar and his mother, who has disowned him since his coming out. 

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