Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ethiopia's Coffee Trademark Strategy

Coffee Politics has a very interesting post regarding Ethiopia's efforts to control the coffee names Harar, Sidamo, and Yirgacheffe.

Ethiopia’s sweeping plan is to register the names in more than 30 countries including the U.S. So far, the country has been granted trademarks for all three names in Canada and the European Union, which consists of 25 member countries. In Japan, Yirgacheffe and Sidamo have been successfully registered while the application for Harar is pending due to prior registration of the name under a Japanese company. In the U.S., however, Ethiopia’s efforts faced a bump due to resistance by Starbucks and the National Coffee Association (NCA).

The YIRGACHEFFE application was filed in the U.S. on 3/17/05 and matured to registration on 8/8/2006.

The HARAR application was also filed on 3/17/05 and is still being prosecuted. Looking through the prosecution history on TDR is interesting. It includes a 567 page (including exhibits) administrative response to a Letter of Protest.

The SIDAMO application seems to be having similar problems.

The article discusses why certification marks are not feasible for Ethiopia and its strategy for enforcement of its marks. Ethiopia worked with Light Years IP to develop its IP strategy.

Ethiopia’s plan is a graduating plan where the country hopes to enforce the trademarks as early as a critical stage is reached. An effective task of policing will be made possible through educating farmers on the value of the brands and the importance of maintaining coffee qualities and enforcing the integrity of the trademarks. At the initial stage, Ethiopia will not be ready to enforce the trademarks internally because there is no incentive in place for the farmers to be compelled to maintain the integrity of the coffee brands.

More info here in a November post from Marty Schwimmer. This post from Brand Autopsy also has a link to the Starbucks video response on YouTube.

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