Ethiopia and Starbucks: can anyone help?

Yesterday Afro-IP posted an item concerning the Ethiopian Government's brand management programme for the protection of its indigenous Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Harar coffee varietals. These brands are henceforth to be marketed under the umbrella of the Ethiopia Fine Coffee label, which will be used wherever the three varietals are distributed and sold. Licensing agreements are now in place with more than 70 companies in eight consuming countries, with licensees committed to promoting Ethiopian Fine Coffees in their particular markets.

Since this development appears to mark the next step after the settlement of the protracted dispute between the Ethiopian government and international coffee-house chain Starbucks, the IPKat has been wondering about the commercial details of the terms under which that dispute was settled. Who is paying what for whom? Is it true that Starbucks has a royalty-free licence? Does anyone know? Please email the IPKat here or post a Comment below.

A rather different Ethiopian Coffee here
Ethiopia and Starbucks: can anyone help? Ethiopia and Starbucks: can anyone help? Reviewed by Jeremy on Wednesday, May 07, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. Emma Barraclough (Managing Intellectual Property) has emailed me as follows:
    "I interviewed Getachew Mengistie of the Ethiopian IP office last year, along with Ron Layton of Light Years IP - the NGO that helped Ethiopia develop the trade marking/licensing programme.

    From what I understand, all the licences are royalty free. In return, the wholesaler/retailer has to share certain information about sales figures etc with the Ethiopian government/the coffee growers association, and undertake certain marketing activities - such as referring to the coffee they are selling by the specific name of Sidamo etc.

    The article we did is here:".

    What I'm not clear about, though, is what the subject of the royalty-free licence actually is. A retailer or wholesaler which sells the coffees in question is entitled to use the names of the coffees in order to describe them to onward purchasers and final consumers. So what exactly does the licence permit?

  2. Actually, I heard that the government of Ethiopia has asked that the royalty be paid in bullets so that it can more quickly dispense with dissenters.

  3. If you own a trademark and don't want to loose that trade mark then you need to protect this trademark. A royalty free trade mark will allow you to licence the use to somebody else this will have conditions of such use but they do not have to pay you to use the mark.


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