October 10, 2005
Trademarks: Think Locally, Protect Globally.
Starbucks appears to be learning the hard way about the difficulties around protecting one's trademark in China, The Seattle Times reports, where the burgeoning economy is prompting a flood of foreign trademark registrations: 588,000 applications in 2004 alone, a surge of 30% over 2003.
Starbucks is taking coffee-shop chain Shanghai Xingbake to court for appropriating Starbucks' fonts, logo and color scheme to provide Chinese coffee drinkers with a quasi-Starbucks experience, the name itself is a phonetic knockoff. (Xing, pronounced shin, means "star" in Chinese, while bake, pronounced bah-kuh, is the phonetic rendering of "bucks.")
Additionally, Japanese copycats sell Mount Rainier branded canned coffee using a logo that looks just like the Seattle original, a move made all the more painful given Starbucks proximity to the real mountain.
In November 2002, President Bush signed the international trademark treaty, the Madrid Protocol, which enables U.S.-based companies to cost-effectively protect their trademarks.
Nonetheless, I would like to stress, protecting your product name, logo and color scheme overseas is still expensive, and going global with your brand means factoring into your budget lawyers fees to protect yourself from pirates.
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