Tag Archives: coffee

Video on Ethiopian Coffee TMs

For those of our visitors who have been following the evolution of the Ethiopian coffee trademarking intervention, I recently came across a very interesting documentary on the subject that looks at the history of coffee and its cultural significance in Ethiopia.  It contains interviews with many of the stakeholders in the TM project, including the Director of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO). 

Scroll to the bottom of the page at: http://www.lightyearsip.net/projects/ethiopiancoffee/

On the same page you can also see the logos for the umbrella brand (Ethiopian Fine Coffees) and the sub-brands (Harar, Yirgacheffe, Sidamo).

For more background on this story see the 2007 case study published in the WIPO magazine.  This is, of course, not up to date but it does present a valuable overview of the project.  (Thanks to Shlomo Bachrach of eastafricaforum.net for sending me the link.)

Post written by Peter Bloch

Nepal to register TMs for tea and coffee

The government has initiated steps for promoting registration of trademark and international branding of tea and coffee — two popular high potential cash crops that can help trade diversification and widen the country´s export basket.


In an attempt to reverse the economic impact of a decline in exports of clothing and carpets, Nepal’s National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) will coordinate the trademark program and identify ways to promote them in the international markets.  Traders believe that their tea is on a par with Darjeeling and hope that this program will enable them to increase export income.

As mentioned in previous posts, the use of trade marks (or GIs) to boost export revenues needs to be considered within the context of a well formulated market development plan which also addresses enforcement (see https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/can-science-reverse-erosion-of-darjeeling-brand-credibility).

Thanks to Shlomo Bachrach at eastafricaforum.net for this news item.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Ethiopia – “Will The Real Poor Farmer Rise”

The Ethiopian coffee story continues.

You can read a letter from Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin (CEO of ECX) by visiting this link:

And a response to this from blogger Nazret here:

And Aldo Coffee weighs in here.  (Although a well placed source observed that this item “recirculates misinformation”.)

Because this story is ongoing, we now intend to only post developments we consider to be signficant from an IP/branding/supply chain perspective, especially if there are lessons that might be learned to benefit commodity producers in other countries.

But if you check the poorfarmer and nazret blogs you’ll get a blow by blow account. Eastafricaforum is probably the most reliable source of information on the Horn of Africa, and significant coffee related events are usually posted there.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP


Oxfam and “The other green revolution”

Oxfam, the UK-based mega NGO, reports on its success in the Sahel where soil management, erosion control and tree planting have transformed the agricultural environment.

“African farmers have reclaimed farmland lost to drought in the Sahel, bringing hope for the future of this arid region and a model for fighting hunger worldwide”

On October 29th Oxfam hosted several panel discussions in Washington DC to enable the innovators to explain the history of the project and to engage with donors and other NGOs in a discussion about how to replicate this kind of success.

FRAME covered the event on Twitter and comments can be found at:

FRAME observed that:

“After the devastating droughts of the 1970’s and 1980’s, African farmers in the Sahel region mobilized to reclaim their land from the encroaching desert. Thirty years later, their work has secured 13 million acres of farmland, fed 3 million people, recharged village wells, and supplied useful and valuable tree products. Despite growing populations and the threats of climate change, food security has improved in the Sahel region.”

As more land is lost to drought, this work may have far-reaching implications for food security in sub Saharan Africa.
Oxfam is far more visible in the UK than it is in North America.  They have played a signicant role in making England a big market for Fair Trade products.  Even chains like Tesco and Waitrose carry FT products in at least five categories, and Sainsburys has a partnership with Twin Trading about (the co-founder of Divine Chocolate) to develop FT products.

OxfamAmerica played a major role in building consumer support for Ethiopia’s coffee trademark initiative (click here for our blog posts on this subject); if you search http://www.oxfamamerica.org for “Ethiopian coffee” you’ll find a dozen links that describe the history of their involvement.

Oxfam understands branding better, probably, than any other NGO.  Check out their range of activities – which includes global warming, emergency aid and poverty in the UK – at:

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

POORFARMER; something’s brewing in Ethiopia

Since the CAS-IP blog was launched over a year ago, we have posted several items relating to both Ethiopian coffee branding and to Eleni Gebre-Madhin, sometime economist at IFPRI and now Chief Executive Officer at the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), an entity that she founded.  Gebre-Madhin was the principal investigator on a comprehensive report published by IFPRI in 2003 on supply chains  – Getting Markets Right in Ethiopia: An Institutional and Legal Analysis of Grain and Coffee Marketing.

We had also referenced the imbroglio surrounding the Government of Ethiopia’s (GOE) move to trademark several of their coffee names; this was intended to firmly establish these varieties as premium coffees, license the use of the names and, over time, to establish distribution chains that would result in a higher return to impoverished producers.  This met with substantial opposition from the US coffee industry, and the National Coffee Association filed a 200 page letter of protest with the USPTO.  Oxfam, supporting the producers, initiated a media campaign to persuade Starbucks to support the GOE plan.  The outcome of this initiative is that the GOE now owns trademarks to Sidamo, Harrar/Harar and Yirgacheffe in the US and in other territories, in spite of objections that these names were generic and/or merely geographically descriptive when the applications were filed in 2005.

A part of our mission at CAS-IP is to help small-holder farmers in developing countries raise their incomes through increased productivity, value add and benefit sharing.  Lessons learned from the Ethiopian trade marking program might inform related projects and support our work with commodity producers in the South (see our market development project).  By way of disclosure, I was the co-founder of Light Years IP and, prior to joining CAS in 2007 acted as COO.  With funding from DfID, Light Years represented the GOE, and I managed the coffee trade-marking program  until 2006.

The latest development brings Ethiopian coffee and Gebre-Madhin together at the ECX Specialty Coffee Event.
The story can be read at:
I would like to thank Shlomo Bachrach and eastafricaforum.net for bringing this to my attention.

According to Reuters:

Ethiopia plans to move the trade in its specialty coffee to an Addis Ababa-based commodities exchange instead of the current channel of selling the beans at auctions overseas, a senior trade official said.
Eleni Gebre-Madhin, Chief Executive Officer at the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) said up to 30 percent of the country’s produce is classified as specialty beans but that higher prices for the fine coffees were not trickling down to farmers.
“The initiative positions Ethiopia to have perhaps the only domestic marketing system in the world for discovering and trading specialty coffee at the arrival stage, thus benefiting the farmers who produce these coffees, rather than at the export end of the chain…..”

Wondwossen, an Ethiopian blogger (http://poorfarmer.blogspot.com) provides coverage of the Ethiopian coffee saga.  His three-part, in-depth report on recent events suggests that relationships between specialty coffee importers in the US (and Europe) and Ethiopian producers have been disrupted by the GOE’s move to channel sales of all coffee through ECX.  When I spoke to Wondwossen, however, he observed that “coops and large estates growing specialty coffee are allowed by the GOE to bypass ECX and sell directly to the ultimate buyers”.

It is difficult to determine whether Wondwossen’s analysis is accurate (although his past reporting has proven to be reliable), but the real questions remain:

• has the trade-mark program effected an increase in s/h farmer incomes?  Not so, according to Gebre-Madhin.  The trade-mark and licensing program would, however, likely not deliver results for several more years;
• will the channeling of all (or most) coffee export sales through ECX have a negative impact on the availability and/or sale of premium coffees in the West?

One informed observer suggested that the Government’s activities are destructive.

We know from studying the market for premium chocolate that direct buyer-seller relationships have been critical in helping producers to achieve a consistent high quality bean, and that this has helped certain estates to sell their output for double the commodity price.  We also know that Starbucks has developed relationships, many of which include grants, with producers with the intention of ensuring a consistent and high quality product.  But there is little if any evidence that high prices in the West for premium coffee or premium chocolate have had much impact on producer incomes.

By way of conclusion:  the Ethiopian coffee supply and distribution chains have been tinkered with, and producer-importer relations disrupted.  The outcomes are unclear, as is the impact of the trade-marking, branding and licensing programs.  Wondwossen is considering a more academic study (he is currently seeking an academic institution to sponsor this, and can be reached though his blog).

More information at:

post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP