Submitted by Oxfam America
Oxfam disputes the Starbucks claim maintaining that Starbucks did prompt the National Coffee Association (NCA), of which it is a leading member, to file an opposition to the applications, which is the reason the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) gave for rejecting them. At a meeting held this past July at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, Embassy staff and advisers met with the NCA president to discuss a letter of protest filed against Ethiopia's trademark applications. Ethiopian Embassy staff asked the NCA President what had prompted the NCA to file the opposition after more than year of silence on the issue. The NCA President responded that Starbucks had just brought it to the NCA's attention.
Oxfam says that it is disingenuous for Starbucks to claim they were not responsible for the application being blocked. Ethiopian Embassy staff and Ron Layton of Light Years IP, a Washington DC-based intellectual property rights organization that is helping to advise the Ethiopian government, have gone on record with this.
Starbucks has also claimed that its investment in social development projects and micro-finance initiatives in coffee growing regions has been recognized for its leadership within the industry.
While Starbucks has taken some positive initial steps in this area, Oxfam thinks the company can do much better. As a company that prides itself in such efforts, it is unclear why Starbucks would oppose Ethiopia's efforts to help its farmers realize a greater portion of the value their coffee commands on the international market
Intellectual property ownership makes up a huge proportion of the total value of world trade but rich countries and businesses capture most of this. Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and one of the poorest countries in the world, is trying to assert its rights and capture more value from its product. It should be helped, not hindered.
Oxfam continues to call on Starbucks to show leadership to other coffee companies by immediately recognizing Ethiopia's rights in this case and signing the licensing agreement that Ethiopia presented to the company in September, recognizing the country's rightful ownership of its coffee names.
Oxfam is a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty. We help people build better futures for themselves, hold the powerful accountable, and save lives in disasters. Our mission is to tackle the root causes of poverty and create lasting solutions. Join us: oxfamamerica.org.
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