Tag Archives: trademark

Hon: Storm in a teacup?

The word “hon” (=honey) has been part of Baltimore, Maryland’s lexicon for decades, and it’s an inherent part of the city’s working-class roots.  But now locals have learned their favorite term of endearment has been trademarked for commercial use by a local businesswoman, and some are protesting the co-opting of what they say is a “Baltimore thing.”

You can read or listen to the story at “Baltimoreans to Businesswoman: Not So Fast , Hon

If an entrepreneur appropriating “public domain IP” were reported from anywhere in the developing world, there would be a lot of action. When a UK company tried to trademark the Kenyan word kikoi (common name for a skirt or wrap), a coalition of NGOs filed an objection and the application was subsequently rejected.”Kikoi TM case

Bruce Goldfarb, a Baltimore blogger, has written at length on the subject in The Hon Manifesto.  He believes that:

Whiting’s claim to exclusive commercial rights to “hon” unreasonably inhibits speech and restrains business.

And that:

Denise Whiting does not have a valid trademark on “hon.” She is a bully, trampling the linguistic commons.

What is particularly interesting about this case is that public outrage has been channeled through a variety of social media, and a Facebook event is in the works.  But Denise Whiting has only been granted protection for the word in four categories (retail gift shops, paper goods, clothing and restaurant services) and the local angst may be a storm in a teacup.

Post written by Peter Bloch

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

Can science reverse erosion of Darjeeling brand credibility?

Darjeeling tea is one of the most expensive tea varieties in the world and is prized by connoisseurs for its distinctive taste and aroma.  Originating from a small area of India’s West Bengal state, there are only 86 Tea Estates that currently produce Darjeeling Tea. All of these are in Darjeeling District, and only teas coming from these estates can be called Darjeeling Tea.

A recent press release, details of which can be read here, indicates that the University of West Australia’s Forensic and Analytical Chemistry Group will be using isotopic analysis as an analytic tool to address fraudulent labelling of Darjeeling tea.

The Tea Board of India, a non-profit entity set up by the Indian government to administer the trade and marketing of Indian tea, controls the Darjeeling trademark. This is registered in the US and is protected under various jurisdictions.  There is a highly protected and distinctive Darjeeling logo that has only been used by the producers, packers and exporters, under license and authority of the Tea Board.  This strict control over the brand is an example of the use of intellectual property regimes to protect intangible assets and to generate income for people in developing countries.

But even with these efforts, there have been widespread reports of fraudulent use of the logo, and evidence that as much as 50% of tea sold as Darjeeling in Germany is in fact inferior product.  And according to Teas.com.au:

Almost 40 million kg is sold as “Darjeeling Tea” when the actual production capacity is just 10 million. Most of this tea comes from Sri Lanka and Kenya …Some of the fake tea is called Lanka Darjeeling or Hamburg Darjeeling but most of the time it’s called Pure Darjeeling.

The Tea Board has been unable to adequately enforce its trademark and, as a result, the brand credibility has suffered with an ensuing loss of consumer confidence.  The question is whether scientific traceability can be an effective tool in reversing this erosion.  Experience suggests that a significant investment in enforcement will also be necessary.  For more on this subject, see https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/ethiopia’s-gi-bill

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

“IP Litigation in Africa”

IP Litigation in Africa” was an item in the WIPO magazine from February this year.  It includes highlights from IP disputes that have recently taken place Africa.  In the introduction Darren Olivier (co-founder of Afro-IP blog) says:

“IP dispute resolution is alive and well in most economically vibrant economies on the continent”

Examples are from Ethiopia, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria and deal with patent, trademark and copyright cases.  We often read about lack of enforcement in the region, so it’s very welcome to see an article of this kind!