Author Archives: KChapman

Bacardi and its yeast, a tale of exiled IP?

It’s not often an IP story comes along that reads more like a film script, but here’s one!  It’s the tale of how a yeast strain, one of Bacardi’s biggest assets for its rum production, left the country during Cuba’s Communist nationalisation program in the 60s.  It’s quite a read…

For the full story:
Bacardi, and its yeast, await a return to Cuba

Update on the Myriad (gene patent) case

There has been movement on an important gene patent case that we have followed in the past, the “Myriad” case. For more information take your pick from a range of posts on the subject on Patent Docs

PatentlyO summarised, “Guest Post: An Interesting Preview of Myriad?

“The Myriad case from the Southern District of New York, involving patent eligibility of DNA isolates derived from naturally occurring DNA, drew a great deal of attention. The court basically held such isolates ineligible for patent coverage as being too similar to the natural substances, and hence barred by the product-of-nature case law.”

This sounds like good news?  Well, even if it were as simple as that, it’s not over yet.  The case is now on appeal at the Federal Circuit. To be continued…

“Will patenting crops help feed the hungry?”

Will patenting crops help feed the hungry?” asked an article on The Conversation last week.

Interesting points made in the article include:

“In some cases, where new technologies are useful in the developed world as well as in developing nations, it may still be useful to patent those technologies. Such technologies can be licensed to seed companies in the developed world for commercial gain, whilst still providing the technologies “for free” elsewhere.”

“In the developing world, we have a policy of making technologies freely available, whether patented or not. Even if we have a patent on a gene, we can provide a no-cost license in developing countries; many large companies do the same”

“Without gene patents we would have less innovation, a solution that wouldn’t help food security at all.” (…)

Good to see solutions such as no-cost licences aired as ways to use IP in a development context.  There are alternative ways to work within the existing structures – and more discussion on these would be welcomed.

Thanks to our friends at Agrobiodiversity blog for sending the link.

Facebook Community Pages and the use of YOUR IP

Back in August 2010, Facebook launched their “community pages”.  In the spirit of social media and “shared knowledge” these pages are auto generated from content that is available online under a creative commons licence (mainly but not exclusively from Wikipedia entries).

But what if you don’t like what is written on your organisation’s auto generated community page?  From Facebook help centre:

“Can I edit the content on a community page?

No. Community pages display Wikipedia articles about the topics they represent when this information is available, as well as related posts from people on Facebook in real time. At this time, there is no way for you to add your own pictures or edit information on these pages.”

No?  This seems more than a little unfair.  Especially when the pages are often accompanied with official logos and it is not always clear which pages are owner generated, and which are auto generated…  From, “Facebook Community Pages Can Jeopardize Trademarks and Brands

“Users can easily be confused between official pages and community pages. For instance, when a user searches for Dr. Pepper using Facebook’s search bar, many “Dr. Pepper” pages pop up. The consumer can’t tell immediately whether it’s a community page, a fan page, or the official page…”

Help is at hand however, even if it’s not so widely publicised.  Download and read the following article: “Brand Owners Can Now Reclaim Facebook Community Pages” for more information on Community Pages, and steps you can take to reclaim your one if you need to.  See also “Have You Claimed Your Facebook Community Page Yet? Here’s How…”  and “How To: Claim Your Facebook Community Page” (Be sure to read the comments too as its not so straight forward.)

The Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP article also says:

“Facebook’s Community Pages are an excellent example of why brand owners should take a proactive approach to social media and have a clear social media brand protection strategy in place. This is not only important for a brand owner to fulfill its duty to police the marketplace but also to ensure that a brand owner has current information about the constantly changing state of social media. There is little doubt that brand owners will continue to see many new developments in the social media space”

For more information on this topic read also the Social Media Examiner article: “Facebook Community Pages: What Your Business Needs to Know

US Patent Reform: America Invents Act Passed

On September 16th President Obama signed The America Invents Act, introducing some much-needed reforms to the American IP regime.

Key components include:

• Reduction of patent backlog
The law allocates additional resources to the USPTO, which will, hopefully, enable the agency to reduce the current backlog of 680,000 applications.

• Reducing litigation
The USPTO will now offer patent owners new tools, which lawmakers believe will enable many patent disputes to be resolved without the need for expensive litigation.

• Increasing patent quality
Additional resources, tools and new management processes will be allocated to ensure that patents granted are of higher quality, i.e., less likely to be overturned or disputed.

• New fast-track option for Patent Processing
If you can afford to take advantage of this new option, and meet the criteria, wait time can be reduced from 3+ years to 12 months.

• Better protection abroad
Harmonizing the US patent process with legislation in other countries will, in principle, provide more efficient and predictable protection for American patent owners abroad.

The overall goal of the legislation is to stimulate innovation by making the patent process more efficient and effective.

Business Week describes the legislation as “The Biggest Overhaul of the Patent System Since 1952” and quotes Senator Patrick Leahy, who co-sponsored the measure:

The America Invents Act will ensure that inventors large and small maintain the competitive edge that has put America at the pinnacle of global innovation.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the legislation is that it embraces first-to-file for new patents, as opposed to the current first-to-invent standard. For one of many perspectives on this, read Paul Kedrosky’s blog post, Patent Reform: Romance vs Pragmatism.  Only time will tell just what the impact of this reform will be, but several commentators observed that the Act does little or nothing to curb the activities of so-called patent trolls.

This important piece of legislation contains a number of additional provisions. More information can be found at the USPTO web site and at IP Watch.

Post written by Peter Bloch

Innovation in Africa

Article written by Stanley Kowalski from the  International Tech Transfer Institute, “Why America must advance innovation in Africa” tackles the issues behind why “An innovative African economy is in the best inter­ests of the U.S.

This is an interesting debate at a time when all public funding is being questioned.

Kowalski’s article says (emphasis added):

“The infrastructure, systems and resources that promote innovation will be the foundation for sustainable, knowl­edge-based economic development in Africa in the 21st century… Stulti­fied policy agendas must yield to dynam­ic strategic planning and coherent program implementation. Ad­ditional discussion and more money alone will not create a solution. In­stead, partnerships and programs must focus on promoting long-lasting outcomes, prioritizing capac­ity-building that generates a steady flow of essential innovations.

As Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of the Green Revolution, stated, “The destiny of world civilization depends upon providing a decent stan­dard of living for all mankind.” We must therefore stop viewing Africa as a chronic burden and start viewing it as the key partner in development for this century.” (…)

For full article download the PDF here

Today’s youth: tomorrow’s leaders – Agriculture through the eyes of the under 40s

Cross posting item from the CGIAR Consortium Office “Today’s youth: tomorrow’s leaders – Agriculture through the eyes of the under 40s”

Growing Talents: Youth in AgricultureThese days, more than ever, we are reminded of the growing need for food security and improved livelihoods in many of the world’s developing countries. This is not just a task for those presently at the helm of agricultural research for development (AR4D) endeavors; it will surely also be a priority for many generations to come. As such, it is vital that we don’t think in terms of passing the baton onto the next generation sometime in the future – we need to include young people in every aspect of AR4D from the outset.

When experience, knowledge and wisdom meet the different perspectives and fresh ideas that many young people can bring to the table, there’s no telling what we can achieve in our efforts to reduce rural poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and health, and sustainably manage natural resources. Unfortunately, the supply of new young scientists, as well as youth willing to work on farms, is lagging behind demand. If we are to tackle the challenges of tomorrow, it is imperative that we attract talented young men and women into our organizations, and then train and retain them.

As the 2010 United Nations’ International Year of Youth draws to a close, and the CGIAR celebrates 40 years in agricultural research, we feel it is appropriate to acknowledge both these events by highlighting the work of several talented individuals; young people under 40 who have already made their presence felt in the field of AR4D.

Our Growing Talents: Youth in Agriculture booklet brings together 13 diverse interviews that showcase the work, perspectives, experiences and aspirations of some of the youth we have been fortunate enough to encounter over the last 12 months.

We hope that the youth highlighted in the booklet will encourage other young people to make a lasting difference in AR4D. We also hope their stories will help to underscore the importance of giving youth a platform so that their voices may be heard. The future is truly in their hands.

We invite you to read their stories and download the booklet

Collaborative research

Bengt Järrehult, Director of Innovation and Knowledge Management at the SCA (Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget), writes:

 “One of the major findings in mankind’s history is realizing the value of working together. Without it we would have starved to death about 100 000 years ago because a single man going hunting is very inefficient (I know – I am a hunter). We have also seen a very strong correlation between the amount of innovations happening and the number of people who are interconnected in the society during the course of the years.”

You can read more at “Open Innovation: To Cooperate or Collaborate –That is the Question

This reminded me of a previous post on collaborative research “ResearchGATE and Its Savvy Use of the Web”  I revisited the ResearchGate site which has expanded significantly over the last 18 months, and now lists nineteen specialties under Agricultural Science, from Agricultural Economics through Irrigation and Water Management to Waste Management.  Researchers from all over the world have signed up.  According to the site, there are now over 1 million members involved in 24 disciplines.

Post written by Peter Bloch

See also “Open Innovation; how should we deal with the IP?

Social media for science; be ready with some IP guidelines

Recent article on SciDevNet encouraging scientists to better utilise social media networks.  “How scientists can reach out with social media” They say:

“The general public has the power to deny your funding or restrict your experiments. It’s important to reach outside your laboratories, offices and field stations to engage with the wider world, to show people that science is essential and that researchers are working hard to help address important issues”

And the article goes on to give some great practical advice about how this can happen.  IP practitioners need to be aware of these efforts, and also be ready to insert IP relevant content into social media guidelines that might be produced.  I have blogged on this subject in the past, see “IP issues in social media networks” – this is an important area that will only grow in relevance.

The FAO have a comprehensive Social Media Policy which anyone can access.  It includes information and advice for their employees about copyrights,  logo use, as well as disclaimer usage, and guidelines about which blogs should be considered “official” and which not, and how that distinction is made.

More and more we will need to think about the usage of these tools and how they are maintained so not to loose any built value, or valuable user names.  Think of a simple example whereby a social media account might be built, and then access lost once the employee who was maintaining it moves on.

Back to the original item.  The advice from SciDevNet is good advice.  Social media noise is a great way to get science noticed and communicated to a broader audience.  Just be aware of the wider implications from an IP perspective, and be ready to act accordingly.

“Food Security Needs Sound IP”: IPRs critical to meet the demands of a growing population

This article in The Scientist “Opinion: Food Security Needs Sound IP”  starts with the all too familiar population projections for the coming years, and the subsequent pressure this will put on agriculture.  It goes on to point out that techniques and technologies will be required to meet this challenge – and that IPRs will need to be improved in order to promote the necessary technology transfer to areas most in need.

“The effective use of research and IPR can help drive delivery of innovative and productivity-increasing technologies crucial to agricultural and economic growth and achieving future needs for food security. The key is to match the proper IPR mechanisms with specific conditions, and to manage them effectively and efficiently to promote innovative research, technology transfer, wealth creation, and overall societal benefit.”

The authors outline some pathways for  supporting “the sensible introduction and diffusion of new agricultural practices and technologies” which include:

  • encouraging enforcement of national laws that comply with TRIPS
  • proactive access to modern biotech (including patent pools and open source licensing)
  • collaboration (including a supportive community of IPR practitioners!)
  • continued building of IP portfolios by national agricultural research institutions.

This is a great opinion piece, looking forward to reading more results from the studies from Washington State University in this area.