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PRESS STATEMENT - 29th August 2007

Submitted by: Light Years IP

Categories: Socially Responsible Investing, Fair Trade & Supply Chain

Posted: Sep 03, 2007 – 12:56 PM EST


Corrections to Misinformation

Sep. 03 /CSRwire/ - The Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) responded today to recent concerns and speculation being expressed in public about its Coffee Trademarking and Licensing Initiative by releasing the following statement.

ADDIS ABABA – September 3, 2007 - Ethiopia's Trademarking and Licensing Initiative, which was initiated in 2004, has reached a turning point as Ethiopians enter their new millennium (2008) and has passed many of the early milestones the fine coffee sector stakeholders have set.

Trademarks – The Corner Stone

The corner stone for the Initiative is to register and assert monopoly ownership of the Ethiopian fine coffee brands in individual consuming markets. Registered Trademarks have been achieved around 28 countries. Applications are ongoing in India, Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Some of these applications and registered marks are under challenge: for example Sidamo in the USA. This is not unusual in TM registrations. Where applications have been rejected, the EIPO, with its legal counsel, are vigorously pursuing strategies to overturn these decisions. In other cases, where there were pre-existing marks registered, amicable settlements are being negotiated. Sidamo in the EU is an example of a successful outcome to date.

Contrary to the concerns being expressed recently, in no country where applications have been made to register a TM, has Ethiopia yet run out of options to rebut or reverse a decision of the prevailing authority or Patent and Trade Mark Office.

Licensing Agreements: starting long-term investment in Ethiopia's brands

With Trademarks assured, Ethiopia is entering into a new form of agreement with the companies that import, roast and distribute or retail these fine coffees. The agreements create a framework to invest in the promotion of these brands over time to increase their recognition and value. To date 20 companies that have signed a licensing agreement with Ethiopia have:

  • Accepted and acknowledged Ethiopia's ownership of these coffee brands, whether or not the TMs which denote them have been secured in territories in which they operate

  • Committed to provide relevant market information to Ethiopia

  • Committed to invest in marketing and promotions of the brands in their outlets, networks or sales channels.

    These are legally binding commitments, and are unprecedented between buyers and sellers from the North and the South. The agreements contain commercially sensitive information – with respect to competing licensees – and are not for public disclosure. (Copies of the generic agreement are available on the www.ethiopiancoffeenetwork.com website.)

    It is a matter of public record that Starbucks made many efforts to persuade Ethiopia to change its approach, often in the public domain. Due to the highly publicized debate between Ethiopia and the Starbucks Coffee Corporation, many members of the public across the world became actively involved in the Initiative. More than 90,000 wrote directly to the CEO of Starbucks on Ethiopia's behalf. These and many, many more acted in other ways to support Ethiopia, and to defend the principle of developing countries seeking to capture more benefit from their intellectual property, for which actions and solidarity Ethiopians are deeply grateful and humbled.

    We realize that the public who stepped up to support us around the world, may remain concerned about whether Ethiopia has managed to achieve what it hoped for in the negotiations with Starbucks that were concluded on June 20th, 2007. We wish to confirm that it did. Other assertions are untrue and based only on mere speculation.

    Furthermore, Ethiopia neither conceded nor altered the fundamental principles and objectives of the Initiative and considers the agreement with Starbucks as not only satisfactory in its own right, but also an important trigger, stimulating many other companies, that had stood back, to now come forward and work with us.

    The Future: Learning to be Brand Managers

    It is very important to us that the many, worldwide supporters of Ethiopia's efforts to achieve ownership and a new, more equal relationship with its distributors also want to be assured of the outcome.

    We see this Initiative as a process and expect to measure results over years, and the next several generations of Harar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe farmers – as well as other special and rare coffees to be included in future – but not in months.

    Ethiopians – like many producing countries in the developing world - have much to learn about intellectual property, branding, brand management, promotions and what consumers really want to know and why they select one coffee product before and over another one on offer on the shelf or menu.

    We hope that you will stay in touch with us, follow and support our efforts and achievements through our dedicated website: www.ethiopiancoffeenetwork.com.

  • For more information, please contact:

    Ron Layton Light Years IP
    Phone: 202 547-7515
    Getachew Mengistie Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office
    Phone: +251-11-5534969


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