It started with Patenting of the name Kiondo, soon to be followed by trademarking raw of the word ‘Kikoy'(an anglicized word coined from ‘Kikoi’) by a British firm(the ruling is today and I will most definitely keep you posted on the ruling). Now the war of Trademarks, branding and patenting is in full rage. HOwever, as always, when its the western world seeking to patent or trademark, the protest by African Countries never amount to anything but when the roles are reversed, then it is termed as unjust, the names are ‘Generic’ and thus cannot be trademarked.
The most recent dispute in branding & trade marking involves Starbucks and the Ethiopian government. The giant coffee franchise opposes Ethiopia’s efforts to trademark the names of its most famous coffee regions Sidamo, Yirgacheffe and Harar. Starbucks, after all, is already using those names to sell coffee for top dollars across the globe. A clear case of a developing country defending itself against rapacious Western business interests, right? Oxfam, the UK-based development agency, thinks so. It is championing Ethiopia’s move and has embarked on a massive media campaign accusing Starbucks of keeping the small farmer under its thumb.
Ethiopian names “generic”
In June 2006, the giant coffee distributor withdrew its application and took a different approach to get its way. According to Oxfam, Starbucks leaned on the National Coffee Association (NCA) to help block Ethiopia’s bid. And it worked. In refusing Ethiopia its trademark, the USPTO cited a position directly from the NCA letter of protest: The names Ethiopia wanted to trademark, it argued, were “generic.”
Unlike the Kenyan Government, The Ethiopian Government has taken it upon themselves to protect its farmers as 15 million Ethiopians earn their living through coffee farming, and the commodity accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the country’s exports.
The same protection applies to cultural exports that are improving the lively hood of a countries’ people. The Kenyan government might not realize this, but art and more so curios and handicraft in Kenya account to a huge percentage in international trade(this has only been neglected as they are viewed more as souvenirs or gifts)
A Washington DC-based intellectual property rights organization Light Years IP is helping to advise the Ethiopian government on trademarking and Intellectual Property. The Kenyan artists need top have their art protected.