Helen DaSilva at Oxfam:
Eight months ago Oxfam began working to raise awareness of Ethiopians’ efforts to gain control over their fine coffee brands. Today, Starbucks has honored its commitments to Ethiopian coffee farmers by becoming one of the first in the industry to join the innovative Ethiopian trademarking initiative.
“Harnessing market forces and allowing poor countries to benefit from intellectual property rights are keys to creating fairer and more equitable trade,” continued Offenheiser. “In a modern economy, companies must bring their business models in line with the demands of good corporate citizenship, which goes beyond traditional philanthropic approaches to dealing with poverty.”
Nearly three years ago, Ethiopia’s coffee sector launched a plan to take better advantage of its intellectual property. The country applied for the trademark registrations of its specialty coffee brands in the United States, Canada, and other countries. At the same time, Ethiopia began negotiating with coffee roasters to sign agreements acknowledging the right of Ethiopians to control these brands.
“With this agreement, Ethiopians can build the value of their coffees and farmers can capture a greater share of the retail price,” Offenheiser concluded. “This should help improve the lives of millions of poor farmers, allowing them to send their children to school and access health care.”