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HOT WATER

Starbucks is forcing an Indian coffee chain to change its “deceptively similar” name

By Suneera Tandon

Starbucks has forced a small coffee-shop chain in New Delhi to change its name.

Three-year-old SardarBaksh, which has over 20 outlets in popular neighbourhoods of the Indian capital, will now be called Sardarji-Baksh, according to a news report by AFP.

In July, Seattle-based Starbucks had moved a local court, claiming the name SardarBaksh was “deceptively similar” to its own.

In a hearing in the Delhi high court last week, the Indian firm, whose shakes and coffee products are priced much lower than those of Starbucks, agreed to rebrand itself over the next two months. The names of three SardarBaksh outlets have been updated already.

Starbucks had also said that the Indian firm’s logo was very close to its own. However, for now, SardarBaksh won’t be tinkering with its logo.

This isn’t the first time Starbucks has moved court on similar matters.

In the past, the coffee chain has taken the legal route in Thailand and Pakistan as well. In 2013, it filed a case against Bangkok-based Starbung over copyright infringement. The same year, in Karachi, local coffee chain Sattar Baksh received a legal notice from Starbucks.

“These kind of ‘local’ outlets are trying to ride on social media memes—longevity in food business finally depends on food quality and the ability of the establishment to build a loyal clientele. We are going to see more of such cases as copyright violations become easier to track and sue,” said Santosh Kanekar, founder at advisory firm Belive Corp.

It’s not the first such case in India either.

Large foreign food chains have several times in the past pulled up local competition over copyright issues. For instance, when Burger King debuted in India in 2015, it filed trademark infringement cases against at least six food chains with names similar to the American fast-food chain.