Elgar Intellectual Property and Global Development series
Edited by Irene Calboli and Edward Lee
Chapter 7: Signs beyond borders: moving from commodity to differentiated exports in the coffee industry
This chapter examines how coffee producers in developing countries can use intellectual property, or intellectual property-related rights as differentiation tools, to move from pure commodity exports to higher-price exports in niche markets and create value. It takes into account the influence of new consumption patterns in the coffee industry and analyses the various differentiation techniques that have been proposed, such as single-origin and sustainable coffees. This topic is particularly relevant to the territoriality debate, as it provides tangible examples of the added value that signs and brands can have beyond national borders, whether those are trademarks, geographical indications, certification or collective marks, or other labels. Coffee is the single most important tropical commodity traded worldwide. It is produced in over 50 developing countries, and it is estimated that some 20 million rural families, or 125 million people,depend on growing coffee throughout the world for their livelihoods. Over the past decade, coffee producers have been facing considerable difficulties because of low and unstable coffee prices. In 2002, coffee prices collapsed to 100-year lows in real terms, leading to a world coffee crisis. Meanwhile, the coffee economy in high-income countries has been moving in the opposite direction, and the crisis is hardly visible from Starbucks-type Western coffee chains. Since 2005, prices have started to recover, reflecting a greater balance between supply and demand.
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