Monthly Archives: July 2010

The battle of the broccoli and tomatoes

I believe that the entire agricultural and biotechnology community is looking forward to learning about the outcomes of last week’s hearing at the European Patent Office (EPO) Enlarged Board on whether marker-assisted selection is a biological breeding process or a technical method and therefore patentable. 

At stake are two patents: Patent EP 1069819, which the EPO granted in 2002 to Plant Bioscience Ltd., on a method for selectively increasing the level of a potentially anti-carcinogenic substance in broccoli plants; and Patent EP 1211926 granted to the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture in 2004 on a method for breeding tomatoes with reduced water content. Both patents have been challenged respectively by Syngenta Participations AG and Unilever N.V. on grounds of invalidity: the selection method was essentially a biological and not a technological process and thus not patentable.

Both Syngenta and Unilever referred to the Board the following questions:

1.         Does a non-microbiological process for the production of plants consisting of steps of crossing and selecting plants fall under the exclusion of Article 53(b) of the European Patent Convention (EPC) only if these steps reflect and correspond to phenomena which could occur in nature without human intervention?

2.         If question 1 is answered in the negative, does a non-microbiological process for the production of plants consisting of steps of crossing and selecting plants escape the exclusion of Article 53(b) EPC merely because it contains, as part of any of the steps of crossing and selection, an additional feature of a technical nature?

3.         If question 2 is answered in the negative, what are the relevant criteria for distinguishing non-microbiological plant production processes excluded from patent protection under Article 53(b) EPC from non-excluded ones? In particular, is it relevant where the essence of the claimed invention lies and/or whether the additional feature of a technical nature contributes something to the claimed invention beyond a trivial level?

In answering the above questions the Board will analyze and apply article 53(b), trying to establish:

“…. whether marker-assisted selection is a biological breeding process or is a technical method and therefore patentable”.

The problem comes from a tension created between article 53(b) of the 1973 EPC which excludes (or exempts) from patentability plant or animal varieties and essentially biological processes for the production of plants and animals and Directive 98/44 article 3(2) which states that:

 “biological material which is isolated from its natural environment or produced by means of a technical process may be the subject of an invention even if it previously occurred in nature”.

Article 3(2) is controversial because, as Dr Van Owervalle points out:

“a distinction has to be made between the natural phenomenon discovered by the researcher and the invention resulting from the searcher’s work after the discovery of a natural phenomenon”.

To complicate the matter further, the broccoli and tomato patents do not protect only the method used to identify the anti-carcinogenic substance and water content, but also the plants selected and produced by this method.

So would the patents breach or contradict article 53(b) of the EPC?  Will the patents grant a monopoly (even if only for 20 years) over the plants themselves, with potentially negative consequences for independent farmers and consumers as DW-World states?  According to Christopher Then of Greenpeace, the only way this tension and complexity can be resolved is by simplifying the patent system and clarifying the bans on what can be patented.  The protests taking place in Germany are around the patentability of new varieties of plants which should not be allowed as “they belong to all humankind”. 

 In my opinion the key point is whether the patents do really extend to the plants themselves or are limited to the technical method used to identify certain elements in the plants.  If the applicability of such inventions is the use of the method for the production of the specific modified plant, then a ban should be imposed. What is clear is that if developing countries adapt or, even worse, translate our already confusing standard to their patent systems, nothing good will come out of it! Carlos Correa, Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies on Industrial Property and Economics Law, at the University of Buenos Aires, believes that this is perhaps a good opportunity to review the system and says that:

Changes are visible not only in Europe, but also in the US where healing has started and the patent system is being given a second look after years of ever-extending patenting”.

We will see….a decision is likely to be taken only towards the end of the year…

If you want to read more about this issue, please refer to the following documents: http://www.epo.org/about-us/press/backgrounders/history.html; http://www.droit-technologie.org/actuality-1175/the-directive-98-44-ec-for-the-legal-protection-of-biotechnological-in.html.

Post written by Francesca Re         Manning of CAS-IP

The long road to Access and Benefit Sharing

 The Ad-Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) resumed at its ninth meeting once again in Montreal between 10 and 16 July. At the previous meeting in November (see CAS-IP blog of 25 November 2009), many issues were left unresolved, in particular the mechanisms that states should adopt to create a protocol which could be incorporated into national laws.

At this July meeting states’ delegates discussed and intended to finalise the protocol drafted by the Co-Chairs, Fernando Casas of Colombia and Timothy Hodges of Canada.  However, in Montreal most of the delegates objected, saying that the protocol had not been negotiated by all relevant parties and that some key issues still needed to be properly discussed.

It is surely true that everyone worked day and night and, according to many attendees, with a very positive attitude; however, many hurdles seemed to be barring the road to success. The biggest hurdles were the use and commercialisation of products derived from genetic resources, access to pathogens in case of emergency situations (like in the case of the Pandemic Influenza – see CAS-IP blog of 9 June 2009), and the relationship between the CBD and the Protocol and their enactment into member states through national laws. In relation to this last point, the EU for example, argued that member states can only claim and exercise their right to benefit-sharing if they have created internal mechanisms that enact the principles of the Convention and of the Protocol which are only on an international level.  

It seems that they are still many unresolved questions and issues.  Is it realistic to believe that the text as it has been left last Friday can be approved by consensus at the next and tenth meeting, which will be held in Nagoya, Japan, between 18 and 29 October 2010.  Many attendees for example felt that the protocol drafted by the Co-Chairs was much simpler than the recent Montreal document and that too much is at stake for those developing countries that are too dependent on exotic genetic resources for their economic development.

Everyone must be aware of the complexities that need to be resolved and it has been decided that before meeting in Japan next October there should be another round of discussions in September, probably in Indonesia.

I am very interested in following these discussions and seeing whether members will be able to reach a real understanding of everyone’s interests and concerns, as well as a genuine trust and confidence in each other.

The Summary & Analysis of the meeting can be found here: http://www.iisd.ca/biodiv/rabs9/.  See also the IP Watch post “Consensus on binding biodiversity agreement elusive; to reconvene in September”.

Post written by Francesca Re             Manning of CAS-IP

New CGIAR; new commitment to Open Access?

Now is the time to act!  Now is the time to get serious about Open Access!

That was the message from the 7th July 2010 Bioversity & CAS-IP organised workshop on Open Access.  A workspace was set up by ICT-KM as a store for all the presentations and documentation of the meeting.  Access is, of course, open. https://sites.google.com/a/cgxchange.org/bioversity-open-access-workshop/agenda

The timing is perfect.  If the new CGIAR can embrace Open Access as a policy we can start to get somewhere.  From discussions during the workshop I see OA in the CGIAR as essentially a two-pronged attack; from the top and from the bottom.  If the Consortium can set the stage to commit to OA from the top then we can rely on having:

1)     A mandate
2)     A reward structure in place (performance indicators)
3)     Resources for the infrastructure and maintenance

These are all required to go forward.  There are examples our there in the life sciences to draw lessons from.  Maria Garruccio at Bioversity talked about some of these examples during the meeting.

It is also our turn to get serious too; from the bottom up!  We need to keep addressing, and responding to the more nitty-gritty reasons why people are reluctant to share (see the Nature item referenced below), community by community if necessary.  A consistent effort is going to be required to steward the process and to continually build trust and value along the way.  It is not I believe, enough to just require OA if we are going to do open access well.  We will also need to keep addressing some of the specifics that hinder effective OA even if they are not immediately thought of in this context.  By this I am referring to issues such as:

-         privacy issues
–         handling of traditional knowledge (see TK guidelines)
–         PIC (prior informed consent)
–         attribution

And I am sure other units have their own lists of issues.  It might start slowly, but there is a real opportunity to create a new commons out there in the Ag field.  Let’s start moving!  Plans are already underway for a CG wide workshop on Open Access in November, to be hosted by ICRISAT. More info TBA.

———————————————————-

More info:

-         Interesting article in Nature “When blogs make sense” about differing approaches to data sharing by two scientific communities. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7302/full/466008a.html

-         ICT-KM blog post about the meeting http://ictkm.cgiar.org/2010/07/13/open-access-workshop-in-bioversity-a-summary/

(Thanks to Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending the Nature link)

“Rebranding Africa”

Ever since reading this African Business November 2009 cover story, its been on my mind.  Editor Anver Versi wrote:

Africa is still seen as a charity case waiting for salvation from outside the continent. This negative view persists despite the enormous progress the continent has made over the past decade both economically and in the political sphere. Why is this so? What can be done to change this perception to one closer to the reality of our continent?

The article addressed a range of issues; top of the list, perhaps, is how:

Africa’s dominant image has been created by the charity brands and the tendency of the foreign press to label the entire continent as warlike and corrupt.

Why “rebrand Africa”?  The most obvious answer it to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) rather than aid.  While it is true that investors perceive parts of Africa as being too risky and lacking adequate governance, investors are flocking to Nigeria (which now has the 2nd largest film industry in the world) and to parts of East and Southern Africa.  And, of course, to Ethiopia and Sudan where Saudi Arabian, Indian and South Korean investors have purchased large tracts of farmland to grow food for export to their respective countries.

Africa consists of 53 countries; there is an immense variation in climate, culture, economy and governance.  To talk about “Africa” is misleading and results in generalizations which often entirely miss measurable progress in many countries and regions.

In the cover story of the June 2010 issue Versi harks back to his November call for the development of positive images to support the continent’s progress.  The focus of this report is on the long-awaited Africa Progress Report, led by Kofi Annan and launched in Johannesburg on May 25th.  Versi observes that what distinguishes this report from the many others is its clarity and its call for action in both leadership and the development of environments which are more business friendly.

The June issue talks about a number of success stories, including the “new” Lagos, Angola’s rise as an investment magnet and advanced high-speed rail in South Africa.  It also attacks a recent BBC documentary, Welcome to Lagos, for focusing almost exclusively on the slums.  Versi: 

“….(western media)…stick to a long-outdated template of Africa as a ‘dark continent’ full of misery, backwardness, hunger and despair.” 

It is as if a BBC documentary on Los Angeles focused on skid row and the new tent cities without revealing the vibrant beach and downtown business clusters or the mansions of Beverly Hills.

It would seem, then, that the first critical step in rebranding Africa is to ensure that western media tell things like they are and report on progress – which is substantial – rather than focusing on the tired negative stereotypes.  The success of any branding exercise, a critical IP tool in the market development toolbox, is often highly dependent on communications and how the product or service is portrayed in films, on TV and in the press. 

Individual countries, regions and the entire continent needs branded content and PR to build more positive images and start to counter the old stories.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

IPRs needn’t be a barrier to development; the Plumpy’nut case

Some time back we posted an item on the Plumpy’nut case.  This is a fascinating case for our community; it’s at the intersection of a debate involving patent rights, development economics and the public interest.  It is a real roller-coaster of a case and, if nothing else, serves as a stark warning to those who aren’t paying close attention to their IP strategy.   

As yet, we still don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, –but we discussed the case during  our recent NPI meeting in Washington and were also given a presentation by the law firm who are representing the NGOs in the Mama Cares v. Nutriset case, (Fulbright & Jaworski).    

Based on the information we have seen and heard some of the issues involved are: 

Patent rights
The plaintiff, Mama Cares[1], says that the claims awarded in the Nutriset patent (US patent 6346284) are overly broad and effectively prevent the manufacture and distribution of any peanut-based RUTF,(ready-to-use therapeutic food). 

A key element in the case, however, rests on a single element in the claim relating to the osmolarity[2]  index.  Mama Cares claims that Plumpy’nut product , as produced by Nutriset licensees, itself does not meet this requirement (and neither does their own self-produced products) and therefore this constitutes a case of “false marking” of the Plumpy’nut product. The Fulbright presentation indicates that Mama Cares is seeking: 

 “Court determination of non-infringement (osmolarity), alternative determination of patent invalidity (inadequate patent disclosure, prior art) and false marking”. 

What is of particular interest is that Mama Cares – before investing in production – is effectively seeking court confirmation that if it does produce its own version of the RUTF it would not be infringing the claims of the Nutriset patent (i.e. there would be no basis for litigation against them for infringement) .  The case schedule is estimated to run into 2013 (including possible appeals scenarios).  

Supply and demand
There are reports that Nutriset’s licensees are not able to meet demand. (There is debate on this, depending on what constitutes demand[3][4])  Back in 2007 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said:   

“If today’s UN recommendation of treating severe acute malnutrition with therapeutic RUF is to be realised, there is a need for 258,000 tons of product. Production capacity in 2007 is estimated to be less than 19,000 tons, with orders placed projected to be for only 8,500 tons. Therefore only 3% of severely malnourished children are likely to have access to treatment this year. This enormous production gap does not even take into consideration the requirements for a potential extension of RUF use for moderately malnourished children or as a supplement to populations of vulnerable children” 

Can local capacity in Africa meet any increases in demand?  This is important because it has been suggested spare processing capacity (and raw materials) in the USA might be available at a reduced rate or “pro bono” to produce enough material to meet demand in developing countries…  For example, the Peanut Association website, communicates their commitment to the development of peanut based RUTF and they have their own “Peanut Butter for the Hungry” initiative.  

One blog (Celsias) quoted Nutriset on this subject: 

 “The problem with U.S. production, says Nutriset, is that funding for humanitarian food and nutritional supplement suppliers requires that almost all the aid money be spent on American-grown surplus crops. This means that third world peanut farmers would get short shrift in a global marketplace, further increasing poverty in those countries at highest risk of childhood malnutrition” 

 The African peanut import/export figures we looked at don’t enable any hard and fast verification of supply of peanuts that could be used in the manufacture.  According FAOSTAT the top African exporters of shelled groundnuts for 2007 are Malawi (10th largest exporter in the world), Gambia (11th), South Africa (14th), Tanzania (17th), Egypt (18th), Mozambique (19th) and Mali (20th) whilst the top 3 African importers of shelled groundnuts for 2007 are South Africa, Gambia and Nigeria. The source of the information was again FAOSTAT

Of course there are other factors to consider when assessing potential supply of product, e.g. disease that can make it difficult to understand what the availability of good raw materials might be.  

 At first glance it would seem that local capacity to provide the key raw material is sizeable.  In fact, interestingly, looking at stats from “World Geography of the Peanut”  in terms of peanut production area (1000ha) the top 5 in 2001 were: India, China, Nigeria, Sudan and Senegal. 

 Capacity building v. trade policy
The Nutriset strategy to license manufacturing to African owned businesses is a desirable goal, as it builds local capacity, encourages the growth of African-owned businesses and supports the idea of “Africans feeding Africa”.  But we do not know enough about the specifics of these licensing agreements to comment further.  An unverified release from Hilina Foods, Nutriset’s Ethiopian licensee, states that: 

“After rigorous audit of the new out lay and set up a…memorandum was signed by both parties in September 2007 to make Hilina Food Processing Center a franchisee of Nutriset Company with a holding of 51% and 49% by Hilina Food Processing Center and Nutriset respectively.” 

We hear repeatedly that US policy can dictate that US companies provide supplies (e.g., RUTF) to fill development grants and humanitarian aid.  A bit of digging around failed to come up with anything concrete to support this position.  Comments in a US Federal Government Accounting Office (GAO) study “recommends” food aid be sourced locally/regionally.  And, a Greenpeace report  published in 2002 during the Bush administration says: 

“While the Bush Administration claims that its offer of food aid to Africa is motivated by altruism, the USAID website is a little more candid. It states: “The principal beneficiary of America’s foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans.” 

Good v. evil
Ok, so it’s not quite as dramatic as “good v. evil” but there is certainly an element of emotional play here.  From what we can see, a gap certainly exists between the philosophies held by the two sides of the debate -different ways of “doing development”, if you like.  Should development take the form of capacity building along the entire supply chain, so eventually the regions that require the product become the ones that can supply it, –whilst increasing the capacity of the region overall?  Restrictive IPRs are a “normal” part of business models to bring new products to market; however, in cases where a product can provide humanitarian relief, is it permissible to enforce such IPRs if the supply doesn’t meet demand?  Add to this the whispers of protectionism for US peanut farmers and industry and you have a complex mix… 

Overview and opinion
During the NPI week in Washington we spoke to many IP-in-development professionals about this case.  The main questions people had were regarding the licensing strategy of Nutriset.  We have few details on this but it seems this area is where the most room for maneuver exists.  The Plumpy Nut product is one of those rare cases where one could probably use the term “wonder product”, and both the US NGOs and Nutriset claim to share a common mission.  Strategic licensing terms could accommodate the goals of both sides IF everyone could go back to the negotiating table. 

The suggestion that many of the blogs and news items make — that this case is about humanitarian need v. the dictates of the IPR — is, in our opinion, simplistic.  It is too loaded, and in any case who would make such a decision and how would it actually be implemented?  The current patent litigation could take three years to resolve, and circumstances suggest that the matter needs to be settled immediately.  So, while the litigation could continue, surely this is a case where some lateral thinking is in order.  A high visibility public figure (e.g. Bill Clinton) might take on the role of unofficial mediator and approach the French government, (a co-owner of the patent via IRD), to seek an immediate resolution.  Based on its inability to meet demand, Nutriset might agree that, pending resolution of the patent dispute, it would not take any action against infringers, or issue humanitarian use licenses outside of their target areas?  However, Nutriset has already indicated that cheap product from the USA would destroy its African licensee business model.  What should be done next? 

We have said this many times before – IP is just a tool, and a tool can be used or misused.    We don’t believe the answer in this, or similar cases is to criticise the fact that IP protection exists for a product that has humanitarian use applications.  We have to be more creative than that.  IPRs can fulfill humanitarian goals if awarded according to the law (e.g., in the US novel and non-obvious and patentable subject matter) and if licensed thoughtfully. 

A final comment – We think this is a great example of an IP success.  A humanitarian use product has been developed that satisfies a critical need, is supporting the development of African-owned businesses, –but is only reaching a small percentage of those who could benefit.  We hope the baby isn’t thrown out with the bath water whilst trying to increase this success and to produce enough for the need! 

(Post written by Kay Chapman, Peter Bloch                    , Francesca Re                     Manning with input from Karine Malgrand                    , Guat Hong Teh, Victoria Henson-Apollonio, Fayola Phillip and the NPI) 


[1] Visit http://www.rfcexpress.com/lawsuit.asp?id=52936 for lawsuit details Mama Cares Foundation et al v. Nutriset Societe Anonym France et al 

[2] In this context; see presentation from André Briend, one of the inventors, about these qualities of the product  http://www.fantaproject.org/ctc/plumpynut2PPT2.pdf 

[3] “Demand” can be defined in many ways.  See “Copyfight” for some discussion on this http://copyfight.corante.com/archives/2010/04/16/nutriset_responds.php 

[4] Some links to arguments for and against this claim: http://www.celsias.com/article/can-you-patent-life-saving-nutrition/,  http://globalhealthreport.blogspot.com/2008/05/demand-for-plumpynut-outstrips-supply.html, http://aidwatchers.com/2010/04/the-plumpy%E2%80%99nut-dustup/

Innovation in the absence of copyright protection

“Who Owns the Korean Taco?”.  This story isn’t agriculture but it is food, and it illustrates an interesting dynamic with regards to innovation in the absence of copyright protection.    

Whilst using the example of a lucrative innovation in the LA fast food industry, the authors point out that “recipes are unprotected by copyright, and so anyone can copy another’s recipe” and they therefore ask:

“Why do chefs continue to invent new dishes when others are free to copy them?”

Why indeed?  They go on to note:

 “…the conventional wisdom says that in a system like this no one should innovate. Copyright’s raison d’etre is to promote creativity by protecting creators from pirates. But in the food world, pirates are everywhere. By this logic, we ought to be consigned to uninspired and traditional food choices…but the real world does not follow this logic. In fact, we live in a golden age of cuisine”

What I find interesting is in the absence of a formal system, an informal norm steps in to help regulation.  In addition, as we have often talked about in our work, the creation of added value is what differentiates products in an otherwise unprotected market; i.e. the building of brand.  The authors outline what they see as the reasons why chefs are not deterred from innovation despite lack of formal protection:

“…There is no such thing as an exact copy of a dish. Indeed, the same restaurant will turn out differing versions of a signature recipe depending on who’s behind the stove…Copies are inherently imperfect.

Second, food is enjoyed in a context…we are purchasing more than just the cuisine: the ambience, the scene, the service and so forth all combine to make the experience. Copies of a dish, no matter how good, cannot reproduce that overall bundle of goods. (And the law of “trade dress,” a version of trademark, protects the distinctive appearance of a restaurant’s décor.)…

Third, chefs, particularly at the high-end, appear to have certain norms about what kinds of copies are acceptable. In a fascinating paper, two professors looked at top chefs in Paris. They found that a system of social norms existed that constrained copying and enforced rules about attribution.”

Examples such as these are useful for us to take into consideration when exploring innovation in a non/under-protected environment.  (Fast) food for thought!

(Thanks to Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending me the link.)

The article refs a related story on the fashion industry which we blogged a while back.  “Necessary piracy?

IP in agricultural development; impressions from a community of practice

I wanted to share for this blog some impressions of the NPI from the NPI members themselves.  This project really is IP in action in the agricultural development arena!  As you may have read during June (see this collection of posts) the NPI met for its Annual Meeting in Washington DC. 

Personally I always experience not just one, but several ‘moments of clarity’ during these meetings.  Our discussions around some of the nuances of IP management in agricultural development come into focus with the case studies and personal experiences of the group.  And, the dynamic of the group is one of sharing and support – it’s as if experiences of members are somehow ‘peer reviewed’ giving individual members the confidence and authority to speak out within their own institutions. 

When starting out with this project in 2007 we hoped that over time the group would perform the functions of an international professional society, and in our fourth year this has been realised. 

But don’t just take my word for it – here are some impressions from the members about what the NPI does for them. 

An extra special thanks to R.Raman from AfricaRice for capturing these videos




Monsanto & the European Court of Justice ruling re: Roundup Ready soyameal

This was big news this month.  See some of our previous posts on this subject for some background, “Enlarging the ‘territorial’ nature of IP rights for goods in transit” and “Monsanto Technology, the European Court of Justice and Roundup Ready Soybean

As IPKat sum the story up nicely in their post “Monsanto: court makes meal of soya“:

“In short Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, sought to rely on a European patent for its Roundup Ready soy beans as a means of preventing the importation into the European Union of soy meal from Argentina. The question at the heart of the dispute was whether the patent, for soy beans that are resistant to some herbicides (notably Roundup), extends to soy meal made from the patented seeds. Argentina, the world’s third-biggest soy bean exporter after Brazil and the US, is one of the few countries in which Monsanto had no patent coverage for its herbicide-resistant seeds.”

Business Week in their post “Monsanto Loses EU Bid to Halt Argentinean Soy Imports” say:

“[The] decision is binding across the 27 EU nations and can’t be appealed.  “Monsanto cannot prohibit the marketing in the EU of soy meal containing, in a residual state, a DNA sequence,” it patented, the EU court said today.

While Monsanto had argued the patented trait in the soybeans remains under its protection after the beans have been processed into meal, the importers argued the patent’s scope isn’t that wide under EU biotechnology rules.”

Business Week also reported the drop is share price for Monsanto on the NYSE.  IP Kat provided the following link for full details of the Case C-428/08 for those who wish to reference the decision.  They also go on to point out:

“Within its sector, Monsanto’s actions will be carefully studied since not only that company but its competitors have looked to what is now held to be an improperly extended notion of patent protection for their income streams. The company is more IP-savvy than most and is bound to have Plan B, Plan C and Plan D lined up.”

This is interesting and fits into somewhat to our recent blog about increased trademark usage.   We will also be looking out to see what Monsanto has up their sleeve then!

(Thanks to Kalpana Sastry & Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending me links on this news item)

Open Access Workshop: Maximising Research Impact

Wednesday 7th July CAS-IP along with Bioversity International will be organising a workshop on Open Access.  From the (attached) agenda:

CGIAR centres with the aim of creating international public goods, is challenged with many questions: How to maximize the visibility of research publications and improve the quality, impact and influence of research? How to disseminate the research results in the most efficient way? How to demonstrate the quality of its research? What are the new tools to better measure and manage the research in the centre?  

The workshop intends to explore open access as a tool to answer the above questions, and show scientists its economic, social and educational benefits to make research outputs as available and widely distributed as possible without financial, legal and technical restraints. A discussion session will offer participants the chance to discuss concerns and difficulties they may have. Invitees from other UN institutions and Rome-based research institutes will provide their experience on the management of open access.

For more information on the sessions please view the agenda.  I will be attending the meeting and will report back via this blog later in the week.

IP issues in social media networks

I listened to, and watched a very interesting presentation from Venable LLP’s Jeff Tenenbaum and A.J. Zottola – a webinar entitled: “The Legal Aspects of Social Media: What Every Association Needs to Know“.

This is relatively new territory and the legal world is applying existing rules to new platforms so things are only starting to become clear now.  One area that has much relevance to us is copyright.  In the presentation slides they say:

“Be mindful of copyright ownership.  Social media is primarily about the content… who owns work on social media?”

They went on to talk about the need for a  written assignment of rights to clarify this.  But as we know the copyright issue also goes further than this.  Social media platforms are created to share content, it is therefore imperative that for those participating in social networks to be clear about who owns the content they are disseminating, and the permissible uses of that content by others. The rules of the 3rd party platform need also to be considered.

Again this isn’t new per se, but its common that the use of these things grow organically.  Perhaps when starting with social media it wasn’t clear how much the platform would or could be used, and therefore IP considerations may not have seemed important.  However, if use of a social media has grown and become part of a larger function of your project or organisation it is probably time to revisit that tool and consider terms of use, policies and disclaimers (where relevant).

Venable include a list a useful Checklist for Social Media Legal Notices and Policies, which you might like to consider.

(thanks to Victoria for sending me the link)