Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Zigong Cafe With a Familiar-Sounding Name

While scrolling through small preview images of photos from Zigong, Sichuan province, I became curious as to why I took a particular photo 2 years ago. About a second after opening it up I laughed and knew what had motivated me. Since it relates to a recent post, I will share it here:

新吧客 (Xinbake) coffee store in Zigong, Sichuan province

For those who don't see why this "drink bar" which sells coffee, milk tea, and fruit juice caught my attention, I'll provide an explanation.

The store featured in a recent post, Starbucks, has the Chinese name 星巴克, which in pinyin with tones is spelled "Xīngbākè". "Xing", which means "star", sounds somewhat similar to "sheeng" and "bake" sounds like "bah kuh" (or "bucks" to a lesser degree). The above store's name is 新吧客, which in pinyin with tones is spelled "Xīnbākè". So although the characters all differ, its name sounds very similar to the Chinese name for Starbucks. The only difference is the "ng" sound instead of "n". Especially given what the store sells and its green coloring, it would be striking if the similarity is a coincidence.

Although the store's name jumped out at me, I am not sure whether this could count as a case of trademark infringement. And I've seen other cafes in China which would likely be of more interest to lawyers at Starbucks due to their similar logos and English names.

Like with other possible changes in Zigong, I'm also not sure if this store is still there. All I know is Zigong currently remains without a genuine Starbucks. The nearest one is several hours away in Chengdu. So Xinbake might be the closest you can get to Starbucks in Zigong.


  1. If you have to explain the joke...

    This made me ponder which Chinese brands I'm familiar with. The the three I thought of were Tsingtao, Norinco, and Seagull. I wonder what the far more than 99% of Americans who aren't interested in the combination of beer, guns, and watches would think of.

    1. Interesting combo. I would guess you're not that much of an outlier in your interests, though maybe you are in your ability to name those three specific brands and identify them as Chinese. I responded here to some other issues raised by your comment.