Starbucks in Africa row and legal shake-up

Starbucks is embroiled in a trademark dispute with Ethiopian farmers, drawing the ire of Oxfam over its actions at a time when the US-based coffee chain is in the midst of a crucial restructuring of its Europe, Middle East and Africa (Emea) in-house legal department.

An application by Ethiopian farmers to register the Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe coffee names with the US Patent and Trademark Office was rejected following protest by the US National Coffee Association, of which Starbucks is a leading member.

Oxfam has lambasted the company for the move, which could cost Ethiopian farmers up to £47m in trade per year.

At the same time Starbucks has relocated Craighton Goeppele from Seattle to its Emea headquarters in Amsterdam to take the role of senior director of Emea legal.

Goeppele’s arrival supersedes the position of Axel Viaene, who was the sole Emea legal counsel. Viaene remains with the company, while it is also hunting for a UK head of legal, who will report to Goeppele and the managing director of the UK business.

Starbucks declined to comment.