No 30

The Kona Case Shows the Importance of Respecting Trademarks and Denominations of Origin

August, 2013

100% NOTEWORTHY

The Kona Case Shows the Importance of Respecting Trademarks and Denominations of Origin

With the strategies and instruments of origin protection that Café de Colombia counts on, a court case like that which happened to the producers from Kona, Hawaii, could hardly occur.

A few days ago emerged the result of a judicial process in the United States between a major supermarket chain and coffee producers from the region of Kona, Hawaii.

In the class-action lawsuit, the supermarket chain was accused of profiting from the reputation of Kona coffee by packaging and selling its own brand labeled “Select Kona Blend Coffee” without specifying the amount of coffee from the region of the Hawaiian Islands contained in the product.

Although the plaintiffs and the chain ended up reaching an agreement, producers of Kona made it clear to judicial authorities and the public in general that there cannot be abuse of the origin and dedicated work of coffee producers. Through these proceedings it became clear that there are consequences for those who use the Kona name in packages of coffee that do not meet the standards set by the Kona certification mark. Not complying with those standards will have implications with regard to federal and state trademark laws, and to consumer protection laws.

Since Kona producers filed their complaint before authorities in California, different forms of protection for the origin of coffee have developed significantly. Café de Colombia has been one of the most innovative players in the defense of its origin reputation and the laborious work of its producers by achieving different recognitions as certification marks, denominations of origin and protected geographical indications in dozens of countries. Therefore, Café de Colombia has an impressive battery of legal instruments for the protection and defense of its origin.

From the perspective of origin verification, Café de Colombia also counts with advanced technology, such as the near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), to identify the different origins of green or roasted coffee contained in a sample in order to verify if a particular sample is indeed 100% Colombian coffee.

In addition to these measures, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation performs physical and sensory analyses on more than 32,000 samples of coffee exported from Colombia. Each year, over 2,000 samples that are described as 100% Colombian Coffee are taken randomly and analyzed from markets in Asia, Europe and North America.

From the legal perspective, Café de Colombia has obtained its protection as a geographical indication for the 27 countries of the European Union and Switzerland, thus enjoying a special protection in this important community market. Colombian Coffee, in addition, has supplementary instruments of protection in the United States and Canada, under the certification marks system. Also in the countries of the Andean Community of Nations, it enjoys recognition as a denomination of origin, among other instruments.

Colombia is the most advanced coffee producer in terms of developing tools for its protection, defending our clients from unfair competition and looking for the benefit of both consumers and producers.

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Kona is a recognized certification brand of USA


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