Monthly Archives: July 2009

System Dynamics conference 2009, and CAS-IP using SDM technique for research

Sebastian Derwisch presents at the 27th International System Dynamics Conference, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (July 2009)This week sees the 27th International System Dynamics Conference, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.  The CAS-IP System Dynamics Modelling team were there and on Monday Sebastian Derwisch presented a plenary presentation entitled: “Model-based exploration of strategies for fostering adoption of improved seed in West Africa” (download the paper here)

Sebastian Derwisch had the following to say:

“Two plenary presentations in the morning [Monday] highlighted the potential a contribition from the field of SD could make to global challenges like energy, climate change and food production. The research of CAS-IP (and the CGIAR) relates directly to the long term goals of the SD society. This shows that system dynamicists also see the methodology as a suitable approach to adress these global challenges.”

I am looking forward to hearing more from both Sebastian Derwisch and Sebastian Poehlmann about how their interactions at this conference may influence the future of the SDM work they are doing for CAS-IP.

BOOK REVIEW on Janice M Mueller, Patent Law, Third Edition, Aspen Publishers (2009)

This review of Prof. Janice Mueller’s book, Patent Law, 3rd Ed on could be of interest to anyone wanting an excellent and readable reference book covering U.S. Patent Law.

Prof. Mueller has been the Chair of the External Advisory Committee (EAC) for us since 2001.  We are honored to have such an eminent scholar, teacher and practitioner as our Board chair.

Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship 2010 Call for Research Proposals * Deadline 8 November 2009 *

I received the following announcement from Bioversity International today; a call for research fellowship applications:

“Bioversity International is pleased to announce the 2010 Call for Research Proposals for the Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship. You can find all the relevant information (announcement, application form and guidelines) here.  The Vavilov-Frankel Fellowships Fund aims to encourage the conservation and use of plant genetic resources in developing countries by awarding Fellowships to outstanding young researchers to carry out relevant innovative research at an advanced research institute outside their own country for a period of three months to one year.  One of the two Fellowships is supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Australia.”

Supporting, developing and saving local agriculture. CherryAid.

I often listen to BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme.  Support of local produce is a common theme in the programme, but the CherryAid campaign goes several steps further.   It is an integration of value add, support of biodiversity, and the education of the consumer in support a specific crop.  It is part of a larger campaign, Food Lovers Britain, which aims to encourage consumers to shop locally for local produce, whilst supporting local business. 

The website describes that the CherryAid project was born because:

“In the last 50 years we’ve lost 90% of our Cherry orchards and now import around 95% of the Cherries we eat.”

Helping consumers become more aware of the underlying issues can ultimately help producers differentiate their product and build a brand encompassing a wide range of add-on value so they are not competing on price alone.  This is a great example of market development and brand building in agriculture.

Comment on Ethiopia’s First Commodities Exchange and Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin

Wide Angle, a news feature on PBS hosted by Aaron Brown, aired a show called The Market Maker on Thursday, July 22:

Shlomo Bachrach, the Founder and Editor of, is an Ethiopia watcher. He saw the show, and comments as follows:

“Wide Angle’s The Market Maker features Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a Stanford economics PhD who left her World Bank position and returned to Ethiopia in 2004 to put her faith in markets into practice.  She persuaded the government to launch the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange, ECX, to establish transparent and reliable markets for the benefit of farmers, traders and exporters.

Persuading the government to support the concept took time. Building the infrastructure, including daily real-time price information from world commodities markets delivered to market towns in rural Ethiopia (where most residents lack electricity and running water), was a challenge.  Setting up the exchange in Addis Ababa, the capital, with warehouses, a trading floor, and a system operated by trained staff was another challenge.

Trading began in late 2008 in several grains, and was expanded to include coffee in the spring of 2009 because of a troubled coffee market.  Since coffee has long been Ethiopia’s biggest export, the government intervened to force ECX to accelerate its entry into coffee trading.

The ECX is not yet a success, and faces big hurdles.  One is the widespread lack of trust among farmers who, based on bitter experience, fear that they will continue to be cheated by merchants who have better information about prices as well as other leverage.  This makes them reluctant to entrust a completely unknown entity like the ECX with their means of survival.  The second and bigger obstacle is the opposition of the traders who have always controlled and manipulated the market, and who will lose their dominance, and their excess profits, if the ECX can establish trading based on transparent pricing, and a system of reliable storage, delivery and payment.

Dr. Eleni, the star of the show, is a brilliant and fascinating woman who gave her time generously as an advisor to a coffee project I worked on some years ago. Success is still distant and is not guaranteed.  But with 60 million people in Ethiopia living off the land, improving farm incomes even a little will have widespread effects.

A lesson that can be learned from this program, which barely scratches the surface of the topic, is the huge gap between the unrealistic and often self serving projects conceived by ‘development experts’ and the reality on-the-ground.

Viewers who have no on-the-ground experience in the field will not grasp much of what they see.  Even those who have gotten their hands dirty – more than attending a few meetings or a conference and a field trip for a few days – will be in the position of the blind man touching an elephant and trying to describe it.  Ideally, viewers will come away from a program like this humbled by the realization of how little they know about what is going on ‘out there’.  In practice, ‘experts’ will continue to be less useful than they think, and local people will be less forthright about their real objectives.  Then there are a few Dr. Elenis, imperfect and overwhelmed by the difficulties of the task, who will slowly make a difference.”

If you want to hear more from Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin then you can also visit the TED talks site and watch her talk there.

Peer-to-patent project. Closed, or just on hold?

There have been varying reports about the peer-to-patent project these past weeks.  See the two lead links for some background.  The CAS-IP blog has also made a number of posts in the past about peer-to-patent.

IP Kat published a post at the weekend which included a quote explaining it was all a big misunderstanding, and it is simply the end of a pilot phase to allow for evaluation. The Peer to Patent site itself  in fact does back this up, stating (albeit rather curtly):

“The USPTO has closed the Peer-to-Patent pilot and is no longer accepting new applications.”

Peer-to-patent is no stranger to differing opinions.  One of the more outspoken write ups questioning the project was in the Internet Patent News Service, PATNEWS. (This is available as email only, visit to subscribe.) PATNEWS summed up by saying:

“there is only one solution to the PTO’s prior art problem: providing examiners with the tools and resources they need to do the job on their own”

CAS-IP legal interns are now starting their projects

Photo credit: Shawn Landersz, CAS-IP.  Left to right. John Zerilli, Catherine Dobson, Leah Boyer, Sachi Claringbould, Irina Curca (CAS-IP), Ola Karpik, Victoria Henson-Apollonio (CAS-IP), Sean Butler (St. Edmunds), Sahar Bandial, Asif Khan, Mehreen Shafiq, Nadia Gracias

Left to right. John Zerilli, Catherine Dobson, Leah Boyer, Sachi Claringbould, Irina Curca (CAS-IP), Ola Karpik, Victoria Henson-Apollonio (CAS-IP), Sean Butler (St. Edmunds), Sahar Bandial, Asif Khan, Mehreen Shafiq, Nadia Gracias. Photo credit: Shawn Landersz, CAS-IP.

Last week CAS-IP hosted an induction week for the 8 interns who make up this year’s summer interns programme.  The induction week was aimed to provide a background to the CGIAR and to the particular challenges of managing intellectual property in a public goods environment.

 Interns will be working on a variety of projects such as:

– contract inventory and the analysis and monitoring of IP restrictions

– researching the types of IP-related transactions ongoing within a centre

– inventory of centre inputs and outputs with a view to IP implications

– drafting informal report on how to collaborate with the private sector

– analysing confidentiality/data sharing agreements and  drafting clauses to be used in standard agreements for the CAS-IP Licence Central project

Some interns have already started their projects, others are now preparing to travel to their designated CG centre to complete their work.   Good luck to all the 2009 interns! 

the G8 summit statement on food security
During the G8 meeting last week in Italy a joint statement was released on global food security endorsed by the G8, the other attending countries, donors and international organisations.  The statement can be downloaded from the CGIAR website (see lead link).

The statement renews commitment to conclude the Doha Development Round successfully — this stalled some time back (see CAS-IP blog posting on the collapse).

In the G8 document there were 12 points in all, at least 5 of those could be of particular relevance to a community concerned with intellectual property management and/or agricultural development in general.  Those 5 points I have cut and pasted below in their entirety (emphasis on partnerships, PPPs, regional efforts as well as general donor/funding themes).  There is no comment from our team as yet.  Of course it’s hard for anyone to predict how this will translate into action on the ground.  For now here are the points that seemed most pertinent FYI:

5. Sustained and predictable funding and increased targeted investments are urgently required
to enhance world food production capacity. Commitments to increase ODA must be fulfilled.
The tendency of decreasing ODA and national financing to agriculture must be reversed. We
are committed to increase investments in short, medium and long term agriculture development
that directly benefits the poorest and makes best use of international institutions. We support
public-private partnerships with adequate emphasis on the development of infrastructure aimed
at increasing resources for agriculture and improving investment effectiveness.

8. Strengthening global and local governance for food security is key to defeating hunger and
malnutrition, as well as to promote rural development. Improved global governance should build
on existing International Organizations and International Financial Institutions, making use of
their comparative advantage, enhancing their coordination and effectiveness and avoiding
duplications. To this end, we support the UN High Level Task Force on the Global Food
Security Crisis. At the same time, we support the fundamental reform processes underway in
the FAO, the Committee on World Food Security, the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research and the global agricultural research system through the Global Forum on
Agricultural Research.

9. By joining efforts with partners and relevant stakeholders around the world, we can together
design and implement an effective food security strategy, with priority on the world’s poorest
regions. We agree to support a global effort whose core principles are country ownership and
effectiveness. We pledge to advance by the end of 2009 – consistent with our other actions
aimed at an improved global governance for food security – the implementation of the Global
Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security.

10. We support the implementation of country and regional agricultural strategies and plans
through country-led coordination processes, consistent with the Accra Agenda for Action and
leveraging on the Comprehensive Framework for Action of the UN High Level Task Force and
on existing donor coordination mechanisms. Building on the experience of FAO, IFAD and other
Agencies, special focus must be devoted to smallholder and women farmers and their access to
land, financial services, including microfinance and markets. Sustained efforts and investments
are necessary for enhancing agricultural productivity and for livestock and fisheries

Priority actions should include improving access to better seeds and fertilizers, promoting
sustainable management of water, forests and natural resources, strengthening capacities to
provide extension services and risk management instruments, and enhancing the efficiency of
food value chains. In this regard, the increased involvement of civil society and private sector is
a key factor of success. Investment in and access to education, research, science and
technologies should be substantially strengthened at national, regional and international level.
Their dissemination, as well as the sharing of information and best practices including through
North-South, South-South and Triangular cooperation, is essential to promote knowledge-based
policy and national capacity. We recognize the opportunities and challenges associated with
renewable energy production from biomasses. Related investment should be promoted in a
sustainable way compatible with our food security goals.

11. In Africa, NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) is an
effective vehicle for ensuring that resources are targeted to a country’s plans and priorities.
Local ownership must begin with the national political will to develop and implement
comprehensive food security strategies, based on sound scientific evidence, inclusive
consultation, domestic investment and clear directions. We also acknowledge the positive
contribution of African-led public-private partnership such as the b We commit to provide
resources – whether financial, in-kind or technical assistance – in support of CAADP and other
similar regional and national plans in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia.”

No More Enola Patent!

This is GREAT news!  The controversial Enola Patent is no more!!  See the lead link for the PatentlyO write up.  (UPDATE:  There is now also information and comment both on the CIAT blog and the CIAT official release on CIAT’s main website.)

CAS-IP has been supporting CIAT in moving this process along since 2000, when John Dodds filed the original request for re-examination.  CAS-IP had also assisted CIAT and pro bono lawyers from Morrison&Foerster with the drafting and presentation of an Amicus brief to the Court of Appeals.

Victoria Henson-Apollonio, manager of CAS-IP wrote the following note on the decision:

“On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) dealt a final blow to the patent claims of the Enola patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,894,079. 

In its ruling the CAFC said:

“In a combined proceeding in which a third person sought re-examination of an issued patent and the patentee sought re-issue of the patent to broaden the claims, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (“Board”) held the patent claims invalid on multiple grounds, including that they would have been obvious at the time the invention was made. We affirm the obviousness ruling and therefore sustain the Board’s decision without reaching the Board’s other grounds.”

 Here is the pdf file from the CAFC’s Internet site

With this decision, the Court has invalidated this patent.  The patent owner, Pod-Ners LLC (Larry Proctor) can no longer sue buyers and sellers of yellow beans in the U.S.  This is a victory for all genebanks that hold and distribute yellow beans, especially the genebank of the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical/International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). CIAT holds and distributes germplasm from many crops, including beans, to subsistence farmers and those that work to help poor farmers, everywhere in the world.”

For more background information visit the CAS-IP site.  We will be updating this page shortly.

Giving things away for free – a business model with no future?

I am sure that issues from the above linked article could have some profound implications when applied to a “public goods” model.  Any takers to speculate on this?

In the meantime, back to the link… the item is written from the perspective of Silicon Valley’s digital economy, the author explores the effect of “free” and the “free economy” (in a context mainly connected to open-source and Internet freebies.)

“There is no question that the internet encourages companies to offer their products free but it has also encouraged a lot of them to burn through their capital and collapse. That is a new economic model of sorts but it is hardly salutary.”

This sentiment was echoed by Murdoch earlier in the year when he strongly hinted that it was the beginning of the end for free online news, see

It seems very likely we about to embark on changing times in the way (online) business operates.  And this in turn, as with the case of MP3 market, (see earlier blog post) could lead to new legal challenges.