How we work

Why the concerted advocacy of the AIPT is necessary

The success of IPVC, which is now being applied widely by African producers and IP owners, raises the likelihood of opposition from supply chain companies that are currently taking some of the income from distinctive products that producers will aim to capture.  The IPVC approach aims to substantially improve producers’ negotiating positions, even in the face of actual opposition from foreign distributors/retailers that face diminished profits. The AIPT will function as such a vehicle for concerted advocacy.

The effectiveness of concerted global advocacy – Ethiopian Fine Coffee Initiative

The importance of concerted advocacy has been demonstrated in the case of 1 million Ethiopian coffee farmers and producers.

From 2004, Ethiopia and Light Years IP set out to secure more export income for Ethiopia with an IPVC strategy of taking control of fine brands in importing countries and using this control to set up a network of licensed distributors in final consumer markets.  There were many obstacles and barriers as there are importers and retailers who were taking most of the value of their distinctive products in final market wholesale and retail sectors.

There is often a mentality that making money by not respecting brands from Africa is acceptable practice. Starbucks, for example, believed they could dispute control of the trademarks of the brands of three wonderful fine coffees that are part of Ethiopia’s heritage, simply by being more powerful than Ethiopia’s fine coffee export sector.

Light Years IP engaged a large group of serious organizations to support a protracted struggle to secure the principle of Ethiopian ownership of their own fine coffee brands. After Starbucks had refused all attempts by Ethiopia and the LYIP group to create a non-public settlement, a public campaign began in October 2006.  It was ultimately Chairman Howard Schultz who conceded, in part due to collective action but primarily as he was brought to concede by a strategy developed by Ron Layton and applied by Ambassador Samuel Assefa.  Schultz adjusted the Starbucks business model as the “right thing to do”, ending the dispute, while knowing that higher prices would enable the farmers to continue to produce the fine coffee that can generate retail prices over $20 per lb.

This example illustrates the value of what the new African IP Trust (AIPT) will do:  Move businesses to negotiate by creating collective action to support the rights of the African producers, indigenous people, farmers and artisans who seek the AIPT protection, while at the same time, demonstrating the mutual benefits of buyers working with these producers.  The additional collective or individual negotiating power of the AIPT and or its members will ideally facilitate diplomatic, negotiated solutions, if possible and with additional social pressure as needed.