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October 30, 2006

Trademarking: Wake Up And Smell the Coffee, Starbucks

There was a fabulous, heartfelt blog posted Friday by Ethan Zuckerman about trademark rights in developing nations.

Starbucks YergacheffeStarbucks, of course, is taking it on the chin for trademarking names of Ethiopian coffee beans “Sidaro”, “Harar” and “Yergacheffe.” The Ethiopians are out in the cold as far as the US Trademark Office is concerned. Starbucks, for its part, makes a half-convincing argument that Ethiopia should be taking another tact in this matter and instead work with Starbucks to create a “coffee certification program.”

Starbucks would probably get a better response from customers if they worked with the Ethiopians and not against them. And it must also be said that the complexities of US Trademark Law is also partly at fault in this instance.

un-StarbucksStarbucks currently does not have a franchise in Ethiopia, so a local woman, who was first turned down by the company, has started a pretender called Kaldi’s, much to the irritation of the Seattle original.

Zuckerman also mentions the trademark case around the word “tumeric”, where Indian scientists had to produce ancient Sanskrit texts to overturn a U.S. patent on the word as it applied to medicine. Turns out Indians had been using it to treat wounds for centuries.

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Posted by William Lozito at October 30, 2006 9:20 AM
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