Starbucks vs. Ethiopia : Corporate Strategy and Ethical Sourcing in the Coffee Industry

TitleStarbucks vs. Ethiopia : Corporate Strategy and Ethical Sourcing in the Coffee Industry
Publication TypeCase Study
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsDepass, D
Corporate AuthorsKenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University,
Pagination11 p.
PublisherKenan Institute for Ethics, Duke University
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsbusiness , BUSINESS ethics , certification , Corporate , economic , Intellectual Property and Patents , licensing , MISSION , Public Policy , SOCIAL responsibility , trademark
AbstractIn March 2005, Ethiopia filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offi ce to trademark the names of Yirgacheffe, Harrar and Sidamo, three coffee producing regions within the country. In doing so, the Ethiopian government hoped to force coffee buyers into potentially lucrative licensing agreements. However, Starbucks had already applied a year earlier to trademark Shirkina Sun-Dried Sidamo. Until a decision was made on Starbucks’ application, Ethiopia’s claim could not be processed. Ethiopia requested that Starbucks drop its claim, but Starbucks was reluctant to do so, and suggested that Ethiopia apply for a different type of certifi cation. This led to public criticism of Starbucks and questions regarding its supposed dedication to selling ethically grown and traded coffee. This case highlights the complexity surrounding global certifi cation programs, the diffi culty inherent in balancing corporate and shareholder interests with responsible corporate citizenship, and the challenge to preserving economic value for the producers of consumer goods grown in developing nations. The case text and teaching notes for this case were completed under the direction of Dr. Rebecca Dunning, the Kenan Institute for Ethics.
NotesThis work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit You may reproduce this work for non-commercial use if you use the entire document and attribute the source: The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.
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