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A federal judge heard arguments Monday in a trademark infringement case that pits coffee giant Starbucks Corp. against a cafe owner who once sold a beer he called Star Bock. U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent said he would decide the case in August. Rex Bell, owner of Galveston, Texas’ Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, said he began selling the draft beer in 2002 after he once combined Lone Star and Shiner Bock beers into a glass for a customer, suggesting he try a “Starbock.” Bell testified Monday he doesn’t know the exact beer recipe himself because he later hired a Brenham brewery to tweak one of its highly rated brews and ship 100 kegs to his Galveston bar. He ran out of the special mixture about a month ago. As more customers began ordering the beer, Bell said he decided to register the name and found the one-word name StarBock was available. He paid $355 to register the trademark and continued to sell his beer under the two-word name Star Bock. “I thought it was just a great name for a beer, especially for a Texas beer,” he testified. Starbucks’ lawyers said Bell was aware of the similarity to the Seattle-based coffee company’s name and wanted to cash in on it. Starbucks sent warning letters to Bell after coming across his trademark filing and eventually filed a formal objection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. Bell filed the lawsuit in Galveston to allow him to market his beer. Starbucks countersued. The parties attempted to settle the case, but Bell said Starbucks wanted him to “just go away, tear up all my logos … and just disappear.” A University of Houston marketing professor testified for Starbucks during Monday’s hearing that when 450 consumers were asked whether they associated Star Bock or StarBock with another company, 48 percent said Star Bock made them think of Starbucks and 58 percent said they believed StarBock was linked to the coffee giant. Bell said he hopes to sell his special blend again if the case is settled in his favor. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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