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Starbucks in copyright spat with Ethiopia

26 October 2006
Starbucks in copyright spat with Ethiopia

US coffee chain Starbucks is resisting attempts by Ethiopia to copyright the names of some of its most well-known coffee beans.

Starbucks and a coffee industry association are embroiled in a spat with the African nation's government over whether the coffee names Harar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe belong to Ethiopia, or can be used by anyone without restrictions.

According to charity Oxfam, the Ethiopian government last year filed copyright applications to trademark the coffee names in a move that would have increased its annual export earnings from coffee by 25%. However, the charity said that Starbucks blocked the country's application, effectively denying it up to £47m of earnings a year.

Ethiopia is simultaneously trying to secure the rights to the three coffee names via the US Patent and Trademark Office.

It has succeeded in its attempt to trademark the name Yirgacheffe, but a final decision has not been made on the other two.

Coffee trade group National Coffee Association of USA, of which Starbucks is a member, has filed protests arguing that the names are generic.

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By Kerstin Kühn

E-mail your comments to Kerstin Kühn](mailto:kerstin.kuhn@rbi.co.uk?subject=Starbucks in copyright spat with Ethiopia) here.

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