Oxfam Urges Company to Review Strategy and Sign Licensing Agreement
Oxfam International (Boston)
October 26, 2006
Posted to the web October 26, 2006
Global coffee giant Starbucks has opposed a plan by Ethiopia to gain more control over its coffee trade and a larger share of the earnings for millions of coffee farmers living in poverty, international agency Oxfam revealed today.
Last year the Ethiopian government filed applications to trademark its most famous coffee names, Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe. Securing the rights to these names would enable Ethiopia to capture more value from the trade, by controlling their use in the market and thereby enabling farmers to receive a greater share of the retail price. Ethiopia’s coffee industry and farmers could earn an estimated $88 million (USD) extra per year.
$6 billion company Starbucks prompted protests against the applications to be filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO has denied Ethiopia’s applications for Sidamo and Harar, creating serious obstacles for its project.
Seth Petchers, of Oxfam InternationalÂ said: “Starbucks’ behavior is indefensible. The company must change tactics and set an example for others by supporting Ethiopia’s plan to help millions of struggling farmers earn a greater share of the profits.”
“Intellectual property ownership now makes up a huge proportion of the total value of world trade but rich countries and businesses capture most of this. Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and one of the poorest countries in the world, is trying to assert its rights and capture more value from its product. It should be helped, not hindered,” said Ron Layton, chief executive of Light Years IP, a Washington DC-based intellectual property rights organization that is helping to advise the Ethiopian government.