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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 November 2006, 11:35 GMT
Ethiopia and Starbucks talks fail
Starbucks coffee shop
Starbucks says it wants to help Ethiopian farmers
Talks between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Starbucks boss Jim Donald have failed to end a dispute on trademarks, Ethiopian officials say.

Mr Donald had flown to Ethiopia after it and charity Oxfam said Starbucks was blocking the country's efforts to trademark three types of coffee beans.

Starbucks denies the accusation, and Mr Donald said after the meeting that it was committed to finding a solution.

US officials say Ethiopia's trademark plan is not economically viable.

Ethiopia's intellectual property office said Starbucks had still not recognised Ethiopia's ownership of the Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe names, despite its offer of a royalty-free licensing agreement.

'Committed to solution'

Mr Donald and Mr Zenawi left Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa after the meeting to visit coffee growing regions in the south of the country.

Cultivation of the coffee bean first started in Ethiopia, and it remains its most important export.

"We were grateful for the opportunity to meet with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Melese Zenawi to talk about how we can work together on initiatives that will benefit coffee farmers," said Mr Donald.

"We believe the meeting was very co-operative and productive and we are committed to working with the Ethiopian government to find a solution that supports the Ethiopian coffee farmer."

Price issue

The spat between Ethiopia and Oxfam on one side, and Starbucks on the other, first hit the headlines last month.

Oxfam accused Starbucks of asking the US coffee trade body, the National Coffee Association (NCA), to block Ethiopia's bid to trademark the three types of beans in the US.

Starbucks denied initiating the opposition to the trademark application, insisting it was a NCA decision.

While Oxfam accuses the Americans of acting irresponsibly and preventing Ethiopian coffee farmers from earning more money, the NCA warns that if Ethiopia gets the trademarks it may price its coffee beans uncompetitively high, thereby hurting Ethiopian exports.

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