Copyright Row That Cost Ethiopia £47m

October 27th, 2006 § 0 comments

Starbucks, the giant US coffee chain, has used its muscle to block an attempt by Ethiopia’s farmers to copyright their most famous coffee bean types, denying them potential earnings of up to £47m a year, said Oxfam.

The development agency said the Ethiopian government last year filed copyright applications to trademark its most famous coffee names – Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe. Securing the rights to these names would enable the impoverished African country to control their use in the market and allow farmers to receive a greater share of the retail price.

The move would have increased its annual export earnings from coffee by 25%.

But Oxfam said Starbucks, which enjoyed a 22% rise in annual global turnover to £7.8bn in the year to October, has acted to block Ethiopia’s application to the US patent and trademark office. The USPTO has denied Ethiopia’s applications for Sidamo and Harar, creating serious obstacles for its project.

Here comes some maths…

“We (Oromia coffee farmers cooperative union in Ethiopia) sell organic coffee for less than £1 a pound but that pound can make 52 specials in coffee shops selling for £2 each, meaning the retailer is selling it for £104. The people who are producing this in Ethiopia don’t have enough food, clean water or health centres.

“Farmers are losing out while others in the chain are making huge amounts of money. That is hugely unfair.”

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Labels: Capitalism

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