Starbucks and Ethiopia on the verge of coffee trademark deal

by Oxfam

(May 3, 2007) Oxfam welcomed today’s news that Starbucks and the Ethiopian Government have agreed in principle to sign a licensing, distribution and marketing agreement this month that recognises the importance and integrity of Ethiopia’s specialty coffee names, Harar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe.

Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy at Oxfam, said: “In just seven months, more than 93,000 people worldwide have joined us in calling on Starbucks to sign this agreement. They will be joining us in waiting for the final agreement to be signed and in examining the details to make sure it offers the best possible deal for Ethiopia’s coffee producers.

“This action by Starbucks could represent a huge step towards a real positive change for the 15 million Ethiopians who depend on coffee for their livelihood.”

According to Ethiopia and Starbucks, the agreement is expected to be finalised and signed by both parties in May. More details regarding the content of the agreement will be available once it has been signed.

In October 2006, Oxfam launched an international campaign to encourage Starbucks to work with Ethiopia directly on the country’s ownership of its specialty coffee names. More than 93,000 people worldwide have joined the campaign, calling on Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement with Ethiopia through letters, emails and action at Starbucks stores around the world.

In the meantime, Ethiopia’s trademarking project has continued to gain momentum. The licensing team heading the project has begun to roll out an implementation plan for the registered trademarks in Canada, the European Union, the United States and Japan. A marketing plan aimed at further raising the profile of the Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe brands on the international market is also underway.

The goal of the trademarking initiative is to help Ethiopia’s coffee sector – including farmer cooperatives – earn more from its valuable coffee brands, increase its negotiation leverage through control of the marks, and ultimately increase the price received for its best coffees. Oxfam estimated last year that the trademarking initiative could earn Ethiopian coffee farmers up to an extra £47 million per year. Ethiopia will be able to protect the valuable reputation of its coffees and enable poor growers to capture a greater share of the retail price.

Oxfam is an international development non-governmental organization. It led an international campaign to support Ethiopia in its trademark claims for its traditional coffee names. The original of this article may be viewed at

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