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Starbucks takes aim at China chain
( 2004-02-05 14:14) (Agencies)

Starbucks is suing a rival Shanghai chain whose name in Chinese is virtually identical to that of the U.S. giant that introduced coffee culture to a nation of tea lovers.

Starbucks Corp is taking aim at Shanghai Xing Ba Ke Coffee Shop Co, whose Mandarin name is written and pronounced the same as that chosen by the U.S. chain when it first set up operations in China -- the focus of an aggressive international expansion.

"We will take legal steps to protect the value of our trademark and protect the public from confusion and deception," the U.S. company said in a statement, adding it had tried to negotiate with the Chinese firm but failed to reach an agreement.

An executive with Shanghai Xing Ba Ke -- which operates two outlets in the city's shopping district -- said he was aware of the lawsuit, but would not comment further.

Famous for a seldom-discussed outlet tucked away in a nook of Beijing's Forbidden City, Starbucks has become a fast-growing nouveau fashion statement in China's richest cities.

Starbucks runs 38 outlets in China's financial hub, more than in Hong Kong, and over 90 stores nationwide. Shanghai is tied with Beijing as its largest market in China, according to the U.S. company's Web site,www.starbucks.com.

The coffee industry has long slavered over China, which has a quarter of the world's population but accounts for less than one percent of coffee consumption.

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