A coalition of Ethiopian coffee producers and the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) set up a programme to acquire trademarks in important export markets, with a view to increasing the profits on these brands for the producers. In March 2005, the Ethiopian government filed its first US trademark applications for three contested coffee names. After 15 months the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) agreed that the name Sidamo was generic and therefore could not be trademarked. This led to an outcry by some commentators, including NGOs and Intellectual Property Rights professionals. Yet, the arguments in favour of protecting indigenous knowledge under international trade rules as a linchpin for economic development and poverty eradication has been forcefully put forward by African countries and other developing countries in both regional trade negotiations and at the World Trade Organization. With the Ethiopian and Starbucks dispute in mind, James Watson and Jeremy Streatfeild eloquently explain in this piece how geographical indications can be used to enhance the capacity of farmers and economic development in Africa and other least developed countries.