Monthly Archives: January 2011

Update on WIPO/WIPD; still causing confusion?

Remember the confusing “look & feel” of the WIPD (World Intellectual Property Database) site and the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation)?  See our post “WIPD hopes to be confused with WIPO; spot the difference!”  Well, we can now take a small breath of relief.  The WIPD logo has been amended, diminishing the likelihood of confusion. WIPO’s actions must have had some effect!

You can check it for yourself and see whether it is still a cause for concern. See the screen shots below of WIPO and then WIPD’s home pages.

(thanks to Francesca Re Manning)

Call for applications for 2011 AWARD Fellowships

The following text is from an email our colleagues in the Gender & Diversity programme sent out this week.  It is a call for applications for their African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship program.  Deadline is March 25th, 2011.

70 top African women scientists from 11 countries to be chosen

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is calling for applications for its fourth cohort of fellowships. Up to 70 top African women scientists from 11 countries – including Liberia for the first time – who are conducting agricultural research in selected disciplines will be chosen. Application forms are available online at http://www.awardfellowships.org/ and the deadline is March 25, 2011.

“We are pleased and excited to offer this unique opportunity to African women agricultural scientists whose work is so critical,” said Vicki Wilde, AWARD Director. “Since our project began in 2008, almost 2,000 qualified women have competed for the 180 coveted fellowships offered, proving the need for a program that boosts the careers of women researchers. We expect to receive even more applications this year as we expand to Liberia and word about the benefits of AWARD spreads to women scientists and agricultural institutions throughout the region.”

African women working in agricultural research and development from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia who have completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in selected agricultural disciplines are eligible to apply.

The fellowships are awarded on the basis of intellectual merit, leadership capacity, and the potential of the scientist’s research to improve the daily lives of smallholder farmers, especially women.

AWARD’s goal is to strengthen the research and leadership skills of African women in agricultural science, empowering them to contribute more effectively to poverty alleviation and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. AWARD offers…fellowships focused on establishing mentoring partnerships, building science skills, and developing leadership capacity.

AWARD addresses many of the barriers, including a lack of role models and mentors, which prevent African women from playing a more active role in agricultural research and from considering a career in agricultural science.

Full application details, including application guidelines and forms to download, are available at www.awardfellowships.org. Successful applicants will be announced in mid-July 2011.

Hon: Storm in a teacup?

The word “hon” (=honey) has been part of Baltimore, Maryland’s lexicon for decades, and it’s an inherent part of the city’s working-class roots.  But now locals have learned their favorite term of endearment has been trademarked for commercial use by a local businesswoman, and some are protesting the co-opting of what they say is a “Baltimore thing.”

You can read or listen to the story at “Baltimoreans to Businesswoman: Not So Fast , Hon

If an entrepreneur appropriating “public domain IP” were reported from anywhere in the developing world, there would be a lot of action. When a UK company tried to trademark the Kenyan word kikoi (common name for a skirt or wrap), a coalition of NGOs filed an objection and the application was subsequently rejected.”Kikoi TM case

Bruce Goldfarb, a Baltimore blogger, has written at length on the subject in The Hon Manifesto.  He believes that:

Whiting’s claim to exclusive commercial rights to “hon” unreasonably inhibits speech and restrains business.

And that:

Denise Whiting does not have a valid trademark on “hon.” She is a bully, trampling the linguistic commons.

What is particularly interesting about this case is that public outrage has been channeled through a variety of social media, and a Facebook event is in the works.  But Denise Whiting has only been granted protection for the word in four categories (retail gift shops, paper goods, clothing and restaurant services) and the local angst may be a storm in a teacup.

Post written by Peter Bloch

Follow up on US Seed Concentration Continues – Seed Concentration in South Africa

Following up on the post from Peter Bloch on the further concentration of the US seed industry,”US seed industry concentration continues.”

The US based seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred has acquired a majority share of the South African seed company Pannar.   Pioneer announced this in September 2010 but is still awaiting the regulatory approval from South Africa.  Pannar is one of the few successful African seed companies operating on a multinational scale.

Pioneer´s aquisition of a majority share of Pannar increases the market share of multinational companies in the South African seed market to about 90%.  This illustrates how the increased market power of a few seed and biotech companies also impacts competition in developing countries as they seek opportunities to expand in different markets.

Post written by Sebastian Derwisch, consultant to CAS-IP

Deadline extended for SIDA genetic resources and IPR training

Deadline for applications is now 31st January 2011

Since 2003 the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has been running an advanced international training programme “Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property Rights” (GRIP).  This year the training will take place May 2nd – May 20th (in Sweden) with the regional  workshop taking place in November. 

Click here to download the brochure of information.

“…the IPR and other legal instruments controlling access and transfers of genetic resources are increasingly complex, the literature is vast and incomprehensive, models are complex, and options are many. Thus, policy makers, scientists and other practitioners especially in resource poor countries face a considerable challenge in formulating IPR policies and negotiating appropriate agreements.

Application form. Click to download

Recognising this fact, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences/SLU with the assistance of Stockholm Environment Institute and Svalöf Consulting AB are offering a unique ’IPR/Genetic Resources Programme’ comprising three weeks course work, intermediate personal change project in home country and one week follow up regional seminar.”

For more information please visit the website or download a copy of the information brochure.  Remember the deadline for applications is 31st January 2011.

Deadline for applications is now 31st January 2011. 

WIPD hopes to be confused with WIPO; spot the difference!

I read with alarm the IPKat post last week regarding the WIPD site.
Friday fantasies“.  Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention IPKat.

The post concerns a website calling itself WIPD, which mimics the branding of WIPO and requests fees for dubious and badly defined services.  Even the strapline is similar; WIPO = “Encouraging Creativity and Innovation” and WIPD = “Imagine Creativity and Innovation.”  Whilst I easily found their list of fees, I couldn’t find the mechanism for processing them. Nonetheless the site is confusing in its content and closely follows the “look and feel” of the WIPO site, so at the very least it is compromising the integrity of the WIPO brand.  See for yourself!

the official WIPO logo (legitimate)

the official WIPO logo (legitimate)

WIPD logo (dubious)

WIPD logo (dubious)

The IPKat entry on Friday was an update from last week’s post in which they said:

“The IPKat is horrified that scam-merchants such as WIPD should be enabled to masquerade as a United Nations Agency in order to deceive and rip off gullible patent applicants, from whom it seeks substantial funds for its worthless services…”

The IPKat called on “WIPO to do something about it“.. and that “all patent practitioners to be aware of this rogue enterprise.”  I share IPKats disbelief that this is continuing.  It is nothing if not ironic…

Calls for proposals: Sustainable Crop Production Research to Improve Food Security

Spotted this announcement yesterday on eurekalert.org that will surely be of interest to readers of this blog. “International research initiative launched to improve food security for developing countries

“Researchers are being invited to submit proposals for the Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development Initiative. The closing date for applications is 31 March 2011. For more information please see www.bbsrc.ac.uk/scprid

A new $32/M joint research initiative is to fund teams from the UK, India and developing countries to work on projects to “improve the sustainability of vital food crops”.

From the press release:

“The new initiative will place particular emphasis on improving the sustainable production of staple food crops across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. These include cassava, maize, rice, sorghum and wheat. By placing significant emphasis on these crops the initiative partners expect to be able to improve food security and quality of life for the largest possible number of people. “

Full details of parameters for the outline proposal applications can be read by visiting the BBSRC (bioscience for the future) website. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/scprid/ Deadline for applications is 31st March 2011.

US seed industry concentration continues

Further to the CAS-IP submission to the DoJ on seed industry concentration, DuPont Pioneer Hi-Bred has acquired two of its distributors – Ohio-based Seed Consultants and Louisiana-based Terral Seed.  This brings total distributor acquisitions for December 2010 to five.  And on January 3rd the purchase of MECS, a technology company specializing in agriculture, was completed.  

Perhaps more disturbing, in 2010 there were several large takeovers in the fertilizer production business, and on December 20th Russian potash producer Uralkali announced that it was buying Silvinit, a smaller competitor, for $7.8 billion.

According to Business Week, the new entity will control 17% of global potash output.

While this is by no means an exhaustive listing of recent acquisitions, it is a reminder that the trend we wrote about a year ago, and which the DoJ planned to “investigate”, is ongoing.

On December 10th the DoJ held the fifth and final workshop on competition and concentration within the US agricultural sector (full transcript available here).  Francesca Re Manning reviewed the transcript (thanks, Francesca!) and observes that:

“In his presentation, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reminded the audience that a fair and competitive marketplace is important not only for producers, but also for consumers. John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs urged the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Justice to stand up to industry and to stop the increasing concentration and vertical integration in farming, ranching, livestock production and meatpacking as this could only help revitalize rural America. 

 The organizers of the workshop series were praised for their efforts to engage with farmers, producers and retailers and for opening a dialogue to better understand the issues behind competition in U.S. agriculture. The role that intellectual property, in particular the patenting of seeds and genetic material, has on competition was indeed mentioned. And it is true that last October the Department of Justice opened investigations into Monsanto’s alleged violation of anti-trust rules in the GM crop market.  However, to my disappointment, the use and abuse of intellectual property rights was touched only marginally.  The focus seemed more on the availability to US consumers of healthy and varied food, perhaps due to Michelle Obama’s campaign on reducing obesity in children.

 I can only commend the workshop if, as a few people from the audience rightly urged, the Government will take the matter seriously and take action. In Mrs. Obama’s words, “Let’s Move”!”

Based on this, I get the impression that the DoJ investigation – which started 18 months ago – is probably not going to have much impact, and that global seed production and distribution will be controlled by fewer and fewer companies.  This will inevitably impact developing countries and further reduce farmer options.  Given the focus of USAID and other donors on food security, perhaps it is time for these organizations to involve themselves in the discussion – before it is too late.

Post written by Peter Bloch

New Book from PIIPA: Intellectual Property and Human Development

PIIPA – Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors – recently published this book, subtitled Current Trends and Future ScenariosPIIPA is a non-profit that provides pro bono IP legal counsel to governments, businesses, indigenous peoples, and public interest organizations in developing countries that seek to promote health, agriculture, biodiversity, science, culture, and the environment.  The email I received announcing the launch provides this description:

“…(the book) examines the social impact of intellectual property laws as they relate to health, food security, education, new technologies, preservation of bio-cultural heritage, and contemporary challenges in promoting the arts.

It explores how intellectual property frameworks could be better calibrated to meet socioeconomic needs in countries at different stages of development, with local contexts and culture in mind. Scenarios for the future are discussed.”

You can download the book at http://piipa.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=99&Itemid=77

There are nine chapters covering everything from traditional knowledge to education. I read Chapter 3 – Food security and intellectual property rights: Finding the linkages which seek to:

 “… identify some of the connections and linkages between food security and IP, particularly in terms of how the right to food as a human right may become affected through policy and legal restrictions and limitations imposed by the very nature of IP.”

 The authors believe that:

 “The balance between controlled access and free access (to food) is at the core of the IP system. There are strong voices saying that the balance has shifted too much towards protection, effectively undermining the dissemination of new, applicable knowledge.”

I’ve excerpted a few key points from the Chapter as follows:

“• A farming community that finds a new way to keep plants safe from rodents is no less innovative than an employee of a company that invents a new strain of rice in a company lab.

• The extension of IPRs – specifically patents – towards rewarding innovation in the area of living organisms was only developed in the 1970s and the ‘real’ repercussions have yet to be fully understood.

• One important question from a human development viewpoint in relation to IPRs is whether the latter create incentives for agricultural research and technology transfer which support a diversity of farming models and are relevant to the situation of poor farmers, who need to improve their harvests but cannot afford huge investments. The industrial farming model prevalent in many developed countries has steadily been transposed to developing countries and LDCs.”

Coverage of the subject, with its complexity and interconnections, is exhaustive, and addresses the impacts of IPRs on farmers’ rights and practices; the growing concentration of economic power in sectors involving farm input suppliers; the privatization and patenting of agricultural innovation, and the diminished role of public sector R&D in agriculture.

The implications of the MDGs, PVP, CBD, TRIPS and ITPGRFA are well covered, and there are suggestions for future development, including national and community-based seed banks; stimulating collective participatory breeding; protecting and promoting the TK of indigenous communities, and exploring open source or cross-licensing structures.

In their conclusion, the authors observe that:

“The crucial balancing between access and incentives, as well as an acknowledgement of the various alternative options that should exist parallel to IPRs, is recognized in a recent report to the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (WIPO 2009, paras. 286–288). Such recognition ought to provide an opening for different approaches to IP legislation which take into account national circumstances, and not uniform, harmonized models based on the laws of developed countries.”

This book is an invaluable resource. I would add one critical factor – the need for a higher level of reporting on and dissemination of innovations that do work and the contributing success factors.  Leveraging these investments by enabling others to benefit is an important piece of the equation, and NGOs should not withhold what are, after all, IPGs.  A good example of sharing is the recently published The New Harvest – Agricultural Innovation in Africa, an invaluable record that may guide a new generation of innovators.

Post written by Peter Bloch