The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) revealed on March 5 that Ethiopia is now recognized by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as the “sole owner of the Sidamo coffee trademark”, putting an end to the long dispute with US coffee conglomerate, Starbucks.
Conflict began in February 2006 when Ethiopia, Africa’s largest coffee producer, proposed Starbucks with a royalty-free license to use the coffee names in exchange for sole ownership of the titles; an offer which was rejected. The dispute was further aggravated in June 2006 when, prompted by Starbucks, the National Coffee Association of USA (NCA) filed a letter of protest to halt Ethiopia’s trademark application.
Ethiopia, the acknowledged historic birthplace of coffee, has agreements with 70 other countries to create wider exposure of its coffees. Following disagreement in 2007 over use in the U.S of the specialty Ethiopian coffees Sidamo, Hara and Yirgachefe, Ethiopia has recently secured trademark rights for Yirgachefe coffee and has filed an application for Harar coffee.
After oil, coffee is amongst the most highly globally traded products, generating $80 billion per year in the world market, a figure which is continuously growing. Ethiopia’s annual coffee production is estimated at over 330,000 tons and the planned exportation of more than 140,000 tons in 2008 will generate $500 million.
The coffee crisis is just one of the numerous issues, including certain political conditions, which are weakening economic growth in developing nations, particularly Africa. Of great concern is the current loss of skilled and non-skilled African professionals to the Middle East, Europe and North America looking for greater opportunities.
The Daily Monitor