The latest CBD meeting on Access & Benefit Sharing is due to start this week. The lead link is to the official site with the agenda and other participant materials. Peter Munyi, Chief Legal Officer at ICIPE and consultant to CAS-IP, is in Paris for the meeting and made the following reflections on the process so far:
“Right now, it’s not clear the nature of the instrument that will be adopted … however, there’s a lot of pressure and goodwill to see the negotiations succeed. … The larger question is whether the CG Centre’s current engagement on these issues, through a ‘centralist’ approach is sufficient. The current discussions are dealing with non-PGRFA, but also with PGRFA utilized not in accordance with the ITPGRFA. It’s not clear whether a sectoral approach will be adopted in the end, and I believe it’s necessary for centres to be more active not only in the current ABS negotiations but also in the work of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources.”
A report by the Rowntree Reform Trust examined a number of public sector databases in the UK with some damning conclusions.
The intro to the report said:
” Of the 46 databases assessed in this report … only six are found to have a proper legal basis for any privacy intrusions… Nearly twice as many are almost certainly illegal under (human rights or) data protection law …”
The 67-page report (see 2nd lead link) includes a section on building effective systems and commented on the failure rates of large IT projects (around 1/3rd were quoted as failing). By way of reason the report explained:
“The [classic] study of large-project failure revealed that big software disasters were usually due to specifications that were unclear, contradictory, the subject of conflict between stakeholders, or that kept changing in the course of the project.”
Last week I saw that IFPRI had published a new policy brief entitled:
“LOCAL MARKETS, LOCAL VARIETIES. Rising Food Prices and Small Farmers’ Access to Seed.” The full text can be viewed by clicking on the lead link above. The following post consists of comments from Peter Bloch; Peter is a CAS-IP consultant who specialises in technology transfer and IP management. He has been working with the West African Seed Alliance (WASA) on branding. WASA, which is led by ICRISAT, is a highly focused initiative designed to stimulate the development of market driven distribution chains for seed and agricultural products. Peter said:
“The summary references “carefully targeted subsidies” and later talks about “investments”. Donors often use the word “investment” when discussing grant aid mechanisms, but we should be aware of the difference between subsidies, grants and investments. Grants to seed companies are not sustainable; and they distort the market. One grant facility requires seed companies to establish a “charitable” objective, and to sell seed for less than any competitor in the area. WASA chooses to provide business training and technical support, and to facilitate connections between seed companies, merchants, farmers and breeders. Using funding from USAID, companies can qualify for bank loans which are supported by guarantees of up to 50% of the loan amount.
A direction to watch is donor supported investment vehicles such as African Agricultural Capital and the (soon to be launched) African Seed Investment Fund that provide finance (as opposed to grants) to seed and agribusiness companies. These entities will invest (as in equity or debt finance) in agribusinesses that are too small, too risky or not profitable enough for private sector investors. This is social investing (where investors seek a social return in addition to a modest economic return) or, as Bill Gates calls it, “creative capitalism”.
Right now there are initiatives which target market driven increases in agricultural output, and there are initiatives that are giving money (or seed) away. Whichever pathway we believe is the “right” one, a decline in funding from international donors requires that available support be applied to achieve maximum sustainable impact. Surely, then, the various donors should try and align their basic thinking on how best to increase agricultural output in Africa.”
Earlier this year we asked members of the National Partners Initiative group (the NPI) “How did you become an IP Practitioner and part of the NPI?”
This video clip is the last of the 4 clips filmed during that meeting. It features Nugroho Priyono, Head of Planning Division, FORDA, Indonesia.
Filmed during the January 2009 National Partners Initiative workshop in Mombasa. Follow lead link for more info about the NPI. Filming and interview conducted by Dede Rohadi from CIFOR.
The news that NAARM, the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management has launched a specialised course in IP in India was reported on the SpicyIP blog this week. The blog reports that:
“The course seeks to create a pool of “bridge professionals” who are equipped to develop IP assets in the agricultural sector by integrating agricultural research developments with industry needs, and strategically leveraging these assets for technology dissemination in the agri-food sector.”
For more information you can visit the relevant pages on NAARMs website.
CAS-IP would like to extend special congratulations to NAARM on this important announcement. We have had the pleasure of working with the course director, Dr Kalpana Sastry, who is an active member of the National Partners Initiative. Congratulations Kalpana!
This news item was posted on Afro IP. The article describes how Dutch customs:
“seized the shipment, made by Indian firm Aurobindo, en-route to Nigeria, at Schipol airport in November under EC legislation designed to protect intellectual property rights.”
The shipment it turns out was HIV medication destined for Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Trade Organisation has, according the article, commented that this is “over-zealous” enforcement of EC red tape and the article goes on to say:
“[campaign groups] are calling on the EC to revise regulation No 1383/2003 of July 2003, which they say allows for the seizure of medical shipments on the basis they might be infringing intellectual property rights or be counterfeit. Rohit Malpani of Oxfam International added that the EC law failed to respect the WTO’s Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, which says that intellectual property rules should not interfere with the ability of developing countries to protect and promote public health.”
This isn’t the only criticism of the Dutch authorities regarding their enforcement actions. Last month I blogged about an IP law enforcement case involving EU, TRIPS and generic drug in transit in the Netherlands from India and bound for Brazil. Again, the Afro-IP blog took this story up linking to this site http://ictsd.net/i/news/bridgesweekly/42823 I found some of the details in this article a little confusing but there was a good write-up from IP-watch on the matter last month, including links to statements from the two countries concerned.
You can read or listen to this item at the link above from NPR’s Marketplace. They said:
“With budget-conscious universities cutting funding for high-tech research, potential breakthroughs that could stimulate the economy are being put on the back burner”
Since the mid 1950s government investment in basic research has been declining. And large technology corporations, which had been contracting with US universities for their basic research needs, have been moving offshore.
If the US wants to regain its global leadership in technology IP, investment in basic research needs to increase; and that research needs to be conducted at and by US based institutions.
Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP
The Kenyan Parliament has recently enacted the Biosafety Act 2/2009 to partially regulate activities in genetically modified organisms, to establish the National Biosafey Authority, and for related purposes. To view the text of the Act visit the Kenya Law website.
Some believe that the Act was partly the result of an acknowledgment that Kenya needs to strengthen its biotechnology law due to allegations that foreign institutions are trying to patent Kenyan genetic capacity as in the case of the University of Maryland in the US. In this case the University and its lead-researcher, Sandra Tishkof, have applied to the EPO for a patent under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) to seek to patent the Maasai’s mutated genes which allows for higher than usual level of tolerance to milk. However, Ms Tishkof declares in a response to an article run by The Times (South Africa) that the application was of a defensive nature in order to protect the invention from intellectual prospectors, and that the University would only want to benefit indigenous populations of Africa, by measures (for example through the creation of a trust fund) to be discussed and agreed with its African collaborators (KEMRI – Kenya Medical Research Institute). The patent as it appears on Espacenet can be viewed here.
It is interesting to see how the press has depicted the event taking automatically a position of suspicious against developed countries. We look forward to see whether this news sparks more debate, both on the developed-developing countries battle over patenting natural resources, and on the possibility, ethical and legal, of patenting human genes.
Blog post written by Francesca Re Manning, CAS-IP www.cas-ip.org
Link 1 ZDNET
Link 2 ZDNET
Link 3 The Register
This is a hot intellectual property story doing the rounds at the moment. It has certainly created a lot of attention (and anger!) which is apparent in the hundreds of comments left on the above linked news sites. In short a patent infringement case has been filed by Microsoft against TomTom (the makers of in-car sat nav systems). However, the real “story” seems to be a larger issue being described as “the first shot fired by Microsoft vs. Free Software” (see full blog posting). This in turn is making some nervous that Linux might be next in the firing line (see item here) It’s going to be one to watch for those involved in open source-projects.
This item from the New York Times online raises some tricky questions about conflicts of interests regarding funding. It describes a situation whereby a student at Harvard Medical School felt some of the information presented in the “protected space” of the learning environment “wasn’t as pure as…it should be” for reasons connected to professors being paid as consultants to drug companies. Reading some letters to the editor connected to this article further complications were raised– for example it was highlighted that often professors receive no income from the University directly, so these contributions maintain their employment.
What is the relevance of this to our CGIAR context? Well, as Public-Private-Partnerships are becoming more common it highlights that one cannot afford be naïve about what this might mean. Working with the private sector may bring up new and unfamiliar issues for centres. It takes time to negotiate and there needs to be a willingness to really go into the details of an agreement. This may well be at odds with a general pressure to reduce transaction time, but one should be realistic about what may be required in order to ensure the right results when entering into an agreement.