Consumer Public Interest Lawsuit Seeks 21 Million RMB for Counterfeit Trademark Sales of Starbucks in China

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On November 22, 2020, the Jiangsu Provincial Consumer Protection Committee announced they filed a public interest lawsuit on October 26, 2020 against Shuangshan Food (Xiamen) Co., Ltd. for selling counterfeited Starbucks coffee.  Shuangshan was previously subject to criminal prosecution for the sale of the counterfeit coffee amounting to 7 million RMB (~$1 million USD). This is the first consumer civil punitive damages public interest litigation in Jiangsu Province and the demand for compensation of 21 million RMB is the highest demand ever made in China in a consumer civil public interest litigation.

In February 2018, the Wuxi City Market Supervision Department received a report stating that there were counterfeit “Starbucks” brand coffee being sold. An investigation determined the “Starbucks” coffee sold by Shuangshan was a counterfeit product. After verification, the market supervision department notified the Wuxi public security department. Later, it was found that the coffee sold by Shuangshan Company was not authorized by the owner of the “Starbucks” brand. Under the premise of knowing that the purchased products were counterfeit, Shuangshan still forged customs declaration documents and false authorization documents, and sold the products. The counterfeit Starbucks coffee went to more than 50 merchants in 18 provinces across China, and finally sold to end consumers.  In 2019, the Xinwu District Procuratorate prosecuted Shuangshan Company and related personnel with a verdict reached  in December. At the same time, the Xinwu District Procuratorate recommended that the Jiangsu Provincial Consumer Protection Committee file a consumer civil public interest lawsuit.

The Jiangsu Provincial Consumer Protection Committee concluded that the case was an intellectual property case involving counterfeit trademarks. The facts were clear and fixed, the amount involved was huge, and the infringement was serious.  The fake coffee sales constituted fraud and the Committee therefore claimed punitive compensation of three times the amount involved. On October 26, 2020, the Wuxi Intermediate People’s Court formally accepted the case.

How to distribute any funds collected by the Committee as a result of the lawsuit has yet to be determined.

Starbucks Thanks You Letter

Author: Aaron Wininger

Aaron Wininger is a Senior Attorney and Director of China Intellectual Property at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner.

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Author: Aaron Wininger

Aaron Wininger is a Senior Attorney and Director of China Intellectual Property at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner.