Chinese coffee seller sued for 21m yuan for copying Starbucks
A Starbucks store in Chongqing, China, August 17, 2019. /CFP

A Starbucks store in Chongqing, China, August 17, 2019. /CFP

A food company in south China's Fujian Province is facing a 21 million yuan ($3.2 million) lawsuit after being caught selling counterfeit Starbucks products.

The public-interest litigation was filed by the consumer council in east China's Jiangsu Province, and the intermediate people's court in the city of Wuxi has accepted the case, the court said Wednesday.

Wuxi's market regulation department said they received a tip-off in February 2018, and after investigation, they found that Shuangshan Food (Xiamen) Co., Ltd. in Fujian Province sold counterfeit Starbucks coffee products by forging authorization and customs declaration documents.

The counterfeit products had been sold to more than 50 merchants in 18 provinces around China, bringing in a profit of over 7 million yuan. According to the consumer council, the 21 million yuan – the highest public-interest litigation in China – is punitive compensation and regulated in the consumer protection law.

In December 2019, five people were convicted in the case's criminal trial and sentenced to up to five years in prison by a Wuxi court. The public-interest litigation is an additional penalty, one of the collateral consequences of the offense.