Oxfam Responds to National Coffee Association
Oxfam Responds to National Coffee Association and Starbucks
In response to Oxfam's announcement that global coffee giant Starbucks has opposed a plan by Ethiopia to gain more control over its coffee trade, Starbucks claimed that it has never filed an opposition to the Ethiopian government's trademark applications, nor claimed ownership to any names used to describe the origin of its coffees.
Oxfam responded by saying 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, 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. 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. It is therefore disingenuous for Starbucks
to claim they were not responsible for the application being
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. The real shame is that when it comes to promoting truly sustainable ways for poor farmers to work themselves out of poverty, Starbucks appears to be drawing the line at these very public gifts to projects in developing countries and a very limited commitment to Fairtrade.
While Starbucks has taken some positive initial strides in this area, Oxfam thinks the company can do 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 for 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 New Zealand is calling on New
Zealand consumers to take action against Starbucks
* Visiting www.oxfam.org.nz to send an automatic fax to Starbucks CEO Jim Donald asking the company to sign the voluntary licensing agreement.