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Oxfam Optimistic on Progress Between Starbucks and Ethiopia on Trademarking Initiative

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BOSTON — International agency Oxfam welcomed today’s news that the Government of Ethiopia and the Starbucks Coffee Company have agreed in principle to sign a licensing, distribution and marketing agreement that recognizes the importance and integrity of Ethiopia’s specialty coffee names, Harar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe.

“This is an important step for Ethiopia as it engages with coffee companies on its innovative trademarking initiative designed to help alleviate poverty,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “This initiative will help create real change for the 15 million Ethiopians dependent on the country’s coffee sector.”

According to Ethiopia and Starbucks, the agreement is expected to be finalized and signed by both parties in May. More details regarding the content of the agreement will be available once it has been signed.

"Oxfam eagerly awaits the final agreement and long overdue recognition of these coffees as unique and valued products of Ethiopia's coffee farmers," continued Offenheiser.

In the meantime, Ethiopia’s trademarking project has continued to gain momentum. The licensing team heading the project has begun to roll out an implementation plan for the registered trademarks in Canada, the European Union, the United States and Japan. A marketing plan aimed at further raising the profile of the Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe brands on the international market is also underway.

The goal of the trademarking initiative is to help Ethiopia’s coffee sector—including farmer cooperatives—earn more from its valuable coffee brands, increase its negotiation leverage through control of the marks, and ultimately increase the price received for its best coffees. Ethiopia will be able to protect the valuable reputation of its coffees and enable poor growers to capture a greater share of the retail price.

In October 2006, Oxfam launched an international public campaign to encourage Starbucks to engage with Ethiopia directly on the issue of the country’s ownership of its specialty coffee names. Over 93,000 supporters have called on Starbucks to sign a licensing agreement with Ethiopia.

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