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Piracy of Jamaica Blue Mountain Trademark

Piracy of Jamaica Blue Mountain Trademark

As we have often pointed out, the name “Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee” is in fact a licensed trademark that is used by permission from the Jamaica Coffee Industry Board. Noted from the counterfeiter’s Gallery on the CIB website, misuse of the name  has been an ongoing problem for years. Lately the piracy of Jamaica Blue Mountain Trademark has become a larger problem among two major purchasing countries. Being both Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee farmers and roasting our own coffee here in the U.S., we have seen many sightings of illicit use and very mis-directed language used in selling coffee that is not Certified Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee.

You will often see Jamaican Style, Jamaican me crazy, Jamaican Blend, and so on. Note this: if it is one pound of coffee for $6-$7, you are NOT buying the real thing.  And even if there is Jamaica Blue Mountain in the bag, best of luck finding THE bean in there. If it says Certified Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend, and/or bears the seal below, and is near to the neighborhood of $15 per pound, you are probably on the right track since with any quality product you get what you pay for. If there is ever a question, you can visit the CIB’s site for a list of authorized Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee trademark users.

Discussed in an Article in the Gleaner on Friday November 1st 2013, here are the highlights regarding the piracy of Jamaica Blue Mountain Trademark as written by Tameka Gordon tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com :

The Coffee Board is fighting the piracy of the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, Jamaica Blue, and Jamaica High Mountain Supreme brands in multiple markets worldwide, but its budget is small and its efforts appear to be falling short.

The commodity board describes infringements, “especially in China”, as overwhelming; while senior information officer Dave Gordon says the “high rate of piracy” in the United States market has added to the burden of securing the brands.

The Coffee Board has a budget of J$5 million for legal battles, but there are at least 51 markets to be monitored, and the funds are insufficient for the job.

“It would be difficult for us to say what the volume is like. What happens is the infringements have different forms …,” said CIB Quality Assurance Manager Hervin Willis.

“You might have persons purporting to sell Blue Mountain coffee that is not Blue Mountain coffee; you might have some that label their coffee ‘Blue Mountain style’ coffee; also you have persons who downright say their coffee is Blue Mountain coffee but they don’t buy the coffee from any of the legitimate sources,” Willis said.

The Coffee Board, through its subsidiary Coffee Marks Limited, enforces brand protection in 51 territories globally using the services of Atlanta-based law firm Joyce Thrasher Kaiser & Liss LLC.

The Coffee Board has no clear idea of the scope of infringements, saying the reports of brand misuse are ad hoc and that it relies on alert parties to report suspected piracy. Consequently, assessing the full economic cost is difficult, the commodity board said.

“It is very costly to fight these infringements and the board has had to foot the costs for these litigations, further impacting on its resources,” said Gordon.

A 2010-11 CIB annual report names Korea, Taiwan, United States, Italy, China, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and some countries in the European Union as among the markets where the JBM brand is used illicitly.

“The issue is an ever-present concern,” Gordon said.

“The US can come down here and dig up our companies if we infringe on them, but we don’t always have the power to do that with them.”

As for China and its daunting size, the commodity board says while it cannot pinpoint the provinces that cheat, there were a number of unapproved products

that made reference to the Jamaican-owned brands in the Chinese market.

Diversifying export market

Jamaica has been trying for two or more years to diversify its geographic markets for Blue Mountain coffee beyond the near stranglehold that Japan had on export supplies pre-financial crisis.

Japan’s share fell to 66 per cent this year from its average highs of around 85 per cent.

The US market has shown the biggest increase in emerging and recovering demand for Jamaican coffee, Gordon noted, against the background of improved prices for the commodity internationally. In 2012, for example, the US bought 117 tonnes of coffee.

Former president of the Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association, Richard Sharp, said protecting the brand in “places like China is kind of tricky.”

“Some of the best brands in the world are pirated in China. You have to have laws and these countries have not developed (them). Even in Japan it’s a discretionary thing that they are working on,” Sharp said.

CIB says it has an annual budget of J$5 million dedicated to brand protection, but notes that “financial resources are limited presently”.

The funds are cobbled together from shipping charges and a cess applied to roasted coffee and green beans.

Individuals or companies that have been contacted by the CIB for pirating the brand “typically back off” when threatened with legal action and often regularise, Willis said.

It would help the monitoring and brand protection efforts were the sector to sign on to the geographical indications project, launched in 2008, said the quality assurance manager.

“The participation has to come from the farmers and the processors. CIB has lobbied them, we have had training,” he said, “but up to this point in time they are yet to sign off on it.”

Geographical indications are place names or words associated with location that uniquely identifies indigenous products.

Certified Mark used by permission from the C.I.B. assuring 100% Certified Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee