Gayo Coffee and the Dutch Grab: Aceh Nanggroe Darussalam, Sumatra

The Gayo tribe in Aceh Nanggroe Darussalam may already have lost the right to use their own name in international trade for their own brand of coffee after a Dutch firm officially claimed Gayo coffee as its trademark. Made from one of the world’s finest varieties of Arabica beans grown only in central Aceh’s highlands, the Gayo trademark coffee can only be used in international trade by Amsterdam-based company Holland Coffee B.V.

“We recently received a letter from Holland Coffee, reminding us not to use the word Gayo on the packages of Gayo coffee exported to the Netherlands,” Rachim Kartabrata, the executive secretary to the Indonesian Coffee Exporter Association (AEKI), told The Jakarta Post recently.

Rachim said Holland Coffee claimed to have registered the word as one of its brands, Gayo Mountain Coffee.

Gayo coffee is produced only in the area of Aceh Tengah and Bener Meriah, known as the country’s second largest coffee bean plantation.

The coffee was named Gayo after the Gayo people who process the beans.

The coffee is a favorite among Europeans and Americans for its strong premium taste and long shelf life.

According to Rachim, CV Arvis Sanada, the Indonesian company Holland Coffee has asked to give up the name, had refused to stop exporting its coffee under the name of Sumatra Arabica Gayo.

Rachim said the Gayo case was similar to the case of Toraja coffee, which was patented by Japan’s Key Coffee Inc.

The sour and bitter tasting Toraja coffee was registered by the firm a few years ago under the name of Toarco Toraja.

“What we can do now is to register “Gayo” or “Toraja”, as a geographical indicator, not as brand, which will make it impossible for other countries to register the word as part of their trademark,” Rachim said.

The International Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) identifies geographical indicators as those originating in a territory or a region, and that the quality, reputation or other characteristics of the product are essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

The international regulation stipulates the owners of a geographical indicator can claim compensation from other parties which use similar geographical indications.

The Indonesian government, however, has failed to regulate the international ruling through any national regulations.

The Dutch first brought Arabica coffee to Indonesia, particularly to Java and Aceh, in 1690 from the port of Mocha in Yemen, although the local authority there actually prohibited anyone from transporting Arabica seeds outside the peninsula.

The Dutch, however, managed to smuggle some out and cultivate them in its colonies, including Indonesia and Ceylon.

Up to 80 percent of Indonesia’s total production is Robusta and the remainder is Arabica, with America, West Europe and Japan being its main export destinations.