Sunday, 9 March 2008

More on Starbucks and Ethiopia trade mark row

According to the Daily Monitor and reported in AllAfrica here, Ethiopia has won trademark rights for its specialty Sidamo coffee in the United States and successfully completed the row with US coffee giant Starbucks. Afro-IP notes that the trade mark SIDAMO was registered at the USPTO on 12 February 2008 in the name of Government of Ethiopia National Government, claiming use since 1928.

The row between Starbucks and the Ethiopian government has received much press commentry over the last twelve months. Hopes of an alliance between Starbucks and Ethiopia had receded last year when the retailer objected to a plan to license rights to coffee brands in countries where they were not registered as trademarks. Although the Ethiopian governnment succesfully concluded an agreement with Starbucks, the agreement attracted criticism by Fairtrade commentators who felt that the royalty free licence provided little reward to the Ethiopian farmers.

It is good to see the Ethiopian government taking steps to protect and grow their intellectual property rights, and succeed. Signs such as Sidamo do face risks of genericism. Hopefully the licence agreement between Starbucks and Ethiopian Government is robust enough to ensure that Ethiopia can benefit from the extensive distribution networks of Starbucks. Ethiopia is Africa's largest coffee producer. Darren Olivier

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