The judgment wasn't much. Starbucks
The Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled that rival Shanghai Xing Ba Ke went too far in copying the Starbucks concept. With a similar green and white logo design and a name that is a phonetic translation of Starbucks, the stateside proprietor prevailed in a lawsuit that had been initiated three years ago.
This is big for Starbucks. Back in May, I interviewed Starbucks CEO Jim Donald and asked him about the company's push into China. The company's long-term goal is to open 15,000 locations outside of the United States, and Donald told me that China is expected to be its largest overseas market.
Since I was unlikely to step into a Chinese Starbucks anytime soon, I also asked Donald to walk me through the differences between an American Starbucks and its overseas counterpart.
"If I blindfolded you, flew you to Xing Dao, and didn't tell you where you were, with the exception of the menu writings, you wouldn't know where you were," he said. "The experience, as well as the beverages -- there might be some regional differences that would probably tip you off -- but you would find that the experience and the quality of the beverages and the selection of the beverages are very similar."
The court ruling in Shanghai should now give Starbucks the flexibility to expand quickly, tapping into a nascent love for java in a gargantuan nation that has historically favored tea. It's also likely to encourage many of the global brands that have yet to make their presence felt in China to expand into the region sooner rather than later.
That's important, because for years China had been seen as either a closed country or one that is a hotbed for piracy. Just consider how the area had frustrated companies like Microsoft
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz will admit that he's not much of a coffee drinker, although he finds the company's Chantico chocolate beverages irresistible. T he Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation.