Oxfam, a non-profit group dedicated to working with others to overcome poverty and the suffering that comes along with it, has accused Starbucks of forcing an agreement upon Ethiopia that benefits Starbucks rather than Ethiopia. It started after the following occurred:
Last year the Ethiopian government filed applications to trademark its most famous coffee names, Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe. Securing the rights to these names would enable Ethiopia to capture more value from the trade, by controlling their use in the market and thereby enabling farmers to receive a greater share of the retail price. Ethiopia’s coffee industry and farmers could earn an estimated $88 million (USD) extra per year.
Ethiopia has even gone as far as to consult with intellectual property experts and legal counsel, and has asked Starbucks to sign an agreement that acknowledges Ethiopia’s ownership of its coffee names.
Starbucks says this is nonsense.They also state that:
Starbucks has never filed an opposition to the Ethiopian government’s trademark application, nor claimed ownership to any regional names used to describe the origin of our coffees.
Which is true. Starbucks has never filed an opposition to the trademark application. That honor goes to the National Coffee Association and their Government Affairs division….which happens to be chaired by
Dub Hay, who in his spare time works for…say it with me…the Starbucks Coffee Company.
Can you say “conflict of interest”?
The solution here is simple…If Starbucks “supports the recognition of the source of our coffees and have a deep appreciation for the farmers that grow them”, then they should ask the NCA to discontinue their opposition to the trademark.
The odds of them doing that? Little to none.