• Jennifer Marks

Egyptian Cotton Enforces Brand Rights

The Egyptian government is getting serious about pursuing manufacturers and retailers who make false claims about the use of long-staple Egyptian cotton in their goods.

A representative from the Cotton Egypt Association — formed by the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry along with the Alexandria Cotton Exporters' Association — visited New York two weeks ago to meet with suppliers and retailers on the subject of becoming licensed to sell products carrying the Egyptian Cotton logo.

The logo can legally be used only on products constructed from 100% long-staple Egyptian cotton. This fine, long-staple cotton constitutes a small part of Egypt's overall cotton production.

"It is an intellectual property issue," said Sahar Mounir, executive director of the association. "We have discovered in many markets sheets, towels and garments [claiming to be Egyptian cotton] that are only 10% Egyptian cotton."

The Ministry has registered the trademark Egyptian Cotton in 26 countries, including the United States, and has registered 50 home textiles and apparel manufacturers in China, India, Pakistan, Portugal, Egypt, Thailand, Turkey and the United States as certified Egyptian Cotton producers.

Another 15 are undergoing the vetting process, Mounir said. Eventually, the licensing program will extend to retailers and hotels. The initial registration fee is $5,000, with an annual $2,000 renewal fee.

The association has also begun to step up enforcement, Mounir told HTT.

"Our communications officers are pulling samples [from retail shelves] and sending back notification of illegal claims," she said. "We recognize many manufacturers are mislabeling the product — especially in India and China for product coming to the U.S."

The association is also working with customs officials. The association knows how much long-staple Egyptian cotton has been grown, who grew it and to whom it has been sold for processing, noted Mounir.

Once the number of licensees reaches a critical mass, the association will launch a marketing program to make consumers aware of the properties of certified, long-staple Egyptian cotton. The association will develop a website to direct consumers to retailers, hotels and consumer brands that are certified for Egyptian cotton. The current web address is cottonegypt.net.

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