Ethiopian farmers are under threat as a result of globalization. Starbucks, a US firm, says it will not recognize the national trademarks for indigenous producers.
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ADDIS ABABA (AFP)
US coffee giant Starbucks, locked in a trademark tussle with Ethiopia, said it will not oppose Addis Ababa's bid to brand its coffee in America and pledged to pursue dialogue over the matter
US coffee giant Starbucks, locked in a trademark tussle with Ethiopia, said it will not oppose Addis Ababa's bid to brand its coffee in America and pledged to pursue dialogue over the matter.
Nonetheless, Starbucks' senior deputy chief for procurement Dub Hay said the company would not recognize Ethiopia's trademarked coffee.
"We are strongly committed to continue the dialogue with the government of Ethiopia and said that we will not oppose the efforts of Ethiopia to trademark its coffees in the United States," Hay told a press conference in Addis Ababa.
"We have not agreed to recognize Ethiopia's property on trademarks, we have agreed not to oppose. We said we will create more demand for Ethiopian coffee, one of the finest in the world."
British charity Oxfam has accused Starbucks of being behind a decision by the US patent bureau to rule against Addis Ababa's application to trademark its most famous coffee names: Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe.
Ethiopia applied to trademark its most famous coffee names to control their use and allow farmers to receive a greater share of the retail price.
But in mid-August, the US Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of an appeal by the National Coffee Association (NCA), which represents US coffee roasters including Starbucks, against the trademark application.
The NCA said the bid was bad economics and bad for Ethiopian farmers, and Starbucks said that Ethiopia would be better served by branding its coffee beans through geographic designations.
But the patent office's examiner said such names were too generic as descriptions of coffee to be trademarked. Ethiopia can appeal the decision.
Hay said Starbucks was keen on promoting Ethiopia's coffee, which represented less than two percent of their purchase last year.
"We met numerous Ethiopian ministers and officials and meetings have been very positive. We have agreed to help promote Ethiopian products," Hay said at the sidelines of a three-day Eastern Africa coffee conference in the Ethiopian capital.
Ethiopia is the world's sixth largest coffee producer and Africa's top producer and exporter. It is also the world's second biggest consumer after Brazil.