David & Goliath?: Starbucks, Ethiopian Farmers, and the International Coffee Trade

The presentation will touch on the history of the relations between Ethiopian coffee farmers and Starbucks as well as the origins of a trademark dispute between the coffee company and Ethiopia. The talk will also include a discussion of the negotiating process, the settlement and implications of the final agreement.

Friday, February 15, 2008
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
6275 Bunche Hall
6th floor History conference room
Los Angeles, CA 90095

In March 2005, Ethiopia’s coffee sector applied for the trademark registrations of its specialty coffee brands, Yirgacheffe, Harrar and Sidamo, in the United States, Canada, and other countries. By seizing control of these brands, Ethiopia plans to enter into partnership agreements that would eventually obtain a larger share of the sales for the farmers. It is estimated that through such agreements Ethiopia’s coffee industry and farmers could earn an estimated $88 million (USD) extra per year. Starbucks raised objection to this move, pitting the coffee company, which had record revenue of $7.8 billion last year, up 22% over 2005, against one of the world's poorest countries.

Mr. Assefa currently serves as an associate attorney in the Washington DC office of Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP. Prior to joining Hawkins, Mr. Assefa was an associate in the Public Finance and Litigation Practice Groups of Harris Beach PLLC, a well known Rochester based New York State law firm where he focused his legal practice, first in the areas of trademark and copyright litigation, and later, as transactional counsel in the areas of public and project finance laws. While in New York, Mr. Assefa honed his trademark litigation skills and later used his experience and knowledge to advise and assist, pro bono, the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office in its trademark dispute with The Starbucks Coffee Company over the use of indigenous Ethiopian coffee names. Mr. Assefa is the founder and publisher of The Ethiopian American (www.theethiopianamerican.com), an online based quarterly publication serving the Ethiopian community in North America.

Cost : Free and Open to the public

James S. Coleman African Studies Center


Sponsor(s): African Studies Center