Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Google Books lawsuit, and general issues raised by Google Books
If you are not already familar with Google Books, it’s likely you stumble across it sooner or later as it grows (and grows…!)   The sheer volume of information available is overwhelming, some 7 million books to date, all with full text searches available!  Great for the user.  A minefield of conflicting interests it would seem for Google, and many issues to be aware of as a potential uploader.

The lead link on the NYTimes outlines some of the objections growing around this business model since the settlement of a class-action suit that “would allow Google to profit from digitial versions of millions of books it has scanned from libraries” See the Google announcement here and also you can read the NYTimes write up on the settlement news here.

This is an interesting example of the problems of rights surrounding digitisation of content.  James Grimmelmann, mentioned in the lead-link article, writes a blog that  has been following these issues, in particular the Google Book project.

CAS-IP has had queries from CG Centres about Google Books in the past.  Some of the questions raised dealt with a) permission required from joint publishers before uploading content, b) print vs digital rights, c) complexity of territorial rights for copyright.  In today’s online environment content can be digitised, uploaded, and accessed all at the click of a button. This ease shouldn’t be confused with a more relaxed attitude to intellectual property rights.

Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, TK and IP Management: a trip report

An elderly medicine man from the Bidayuh community at Semadang Village explaining to the staff and family members of Bioversity-APO about the various uses of medicinal plants conserved at the village garden.

photo by G.H.Teh

 The weekend before last was special.  The Bioversity-APO office, where I’m hosted, organised a trip for their staff and family members to Kuching.  This beautiful city is located in Sarawak, the biggest state in Malaysia which probably has the richest biodiversity in the country.  When we arrived on Friday morning, we were transported to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) ( for a visit and tour of their facility. SBC has been involved in various projects on traditional knowledge (TK) documentation with indigenous communities for about 10 years now (click here for more information – publication sharefair2009 PN).  During this time, they have managed to collect and document TK and information of various medicinal plants, and to subsequently conduct research to “discover chemicals and enzymes…that would be useful over a broad range of applications as industrial related products such as essential oils, bio-pesticides and commercial dyes” (see: SBC’s Bioprospecting Programme -).

GHT delivering her talk

photo by Chan Yunn Horng

As part of the visit, I presented a talk on IP management (see – SBC Presentation by GHTeh), by sharing experiences in the CGIAR system on various issues. 



From conversations with the Chief Executive Officer of SBC, Dr Rita Manurung, I have been apprised of the following IP challenges faced by the institution:

a)       Formation of an IP policy for SBC and the state of Sarawak;

b)       Development of in-house IP capacity to assist with IP management and implementation;

c)       Providing access to genetic resources and associated TK in a way that respects and takes into account the contribution of indigenous communities in Sarawak; and

d)       Developing benefit-sharing mechanisms for use of genetic resources and associated TK by third parties.

 Although my visit was very brief, the impression I got about SBC was very encouraging.  They have been pioneers in Malaysia for TK documentation and it is highly likely that this state institution is well on its way to strategise on taking their TK inventory and discoveries to the next level.  “We cannot stop the progress of science and technology”, says Dr Manurung.  To this, I can only say that IP must be an enabling tool for us to share with the world the wonders of biodiversity and the many promises that it can potentially bring for mankind.

Post written by Guat Hong Teh, legal specialist for CAS-IP.

To The Best of our Knowledge; Wisconsin Public Radio
In this program (see lead link*) host Steve Paulson talks to Paul Miller, the “unofficial spokesman for remix culture in his persona as DJ Spooky”, and to Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford University and the founder of Creative Commons.

Mash-up” is a not-so-new art form that has become more visible as a result of the proliferation of digital media and the internet. The use of existing works of art to create “new” works of art (Rip, Mix and Burn) raises copyright issues. Lessig: “I’m not an abolitionist…. but copyright is over regulated“.

Lessig’s latest book, “Code: Version 2.0”, is available for free under a Creative Commons licensing agreement.  To download and/or remix:

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

(*From my European location I cannot listen to the programme.  I suspect its a geographical restriction for copyright reasons.. sigh…., Kay)

Remember that intellectual property is a tool
I can normally rely on the sarcasm of IPKat to make me smile!  This article was no exception; an analysis of the verbatim on the new UK Pirate Party website (born from a movement connected to the Pirate Bay case blogged here on a number of occasions). 

The Pirate Party’s over simplification of the negative aspects of IP laws got me thinking about the IP debate within our arena of “public goods”. 

An analogy Victoria Henson-Apollonio recently used sumed it up nicely for me — she said:

“think of IP as a tool, like a hammer you can use it to knock a nail into a piece of wood, or you can smash a window..!”

There are some critics out there in the blogosphere who seem to be ideologically against intellectual property protection, and there are emotive and compelling arguments in this camp.  The issue of the Enola patent is a great example of badly applied IPRs.  But equally, well managed IP can be hugely beneficial to developing economies.  Imagine the African music industry with no copyright protection.  Or a research partnership agreement with a private sector partner and no clauses to clarify freedom to disclose results.  We just need to make sure the tool is used correctly to keep it away from the windows!

New ideas for the CAS-IP System Dynamics Modelling team

Further to the recent posting about the CAS-IP System Dynamics team participating at the 2009 System Dynamics conference the following is an update from the trip report written by Sebastian Derwisch and Sebastian Poehlmann:

 “For this project we are creating a generic model of the seed value chain in West Africa, depicting every step from variety creation in the research and development sector down to the adoption by smallholder farmers.

In the plenary session Sebastian Derwisch presented a paper he co-authored with Birgit Kopainsky on farmers’ adoption in which they are trying to identify a) how farmers’ adoption differs by country and region, b) which policies are suited to enhance the adoption of improved seed as well as c) the role IP strategies play in this process.

CAS-IP at the System Dynamics conference 2009

CAS-IP at the System Dynamics conference 2009

The discussion after the presentation dealt mainly with following:
– Matching reference mode – did we validate the structure with empirical data

– Including bottom up approaches; IP policies are perceived to be top down approaches and we need to include justifications to what extend working top down is in fact necessary if we speak of framing conditions like intellectual property right or to what extent executing IPR is also bottom up

– Including the price as a variable – including financing issues of enhanced agricultural inputs more explicitly would increase confidence in the structure as this is the main inhibiting factor for adoption

– How can we simulate the impact of catastrophic events like droughts?

– What about combining policies?

– What are factors that would make farmers that once used commercial seed start using traditional farm saved seed again

–  is availability an issue here? What else?

The other paper Sebastian Derwisch presented was his work on the issue of enhancing investment into the development of new seed varieties. In this parallel session he received comments on the problem of validating the structure with empirical data.  It was also suggested the project could benefit from looking at other agricultural inputs for traditional and commercial seed systems as influencing factors.

From discussions at the presentations it became clear that embedding seed value chain in the larger context of energy prices, other food chains and the productivity and capacity of soils would be another interesting aspect.

We observed the current trends towards web-based simulation and modelling collaboration with great interest and plan to invest some time in developing web simulations in order to better illustrate and communicate the System Dynamics approach e.g. via the CAS-IP blog.”

New book on the market:”Gene Patents and Collaborative Licensing Models”

CAS-IP manager, Victoria Henson-Apollonio contributed a chapter to a book that is now available from Cambridge University Press.  The full title of the book is:

“Gene Patents and Collaborative Licensing Models Patent Pools, Clearinghouses, Open Source Models and Liability Regimes”

The chapter that Victoria contributed is entitled:

“The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The Standard Material Transfer Agreement as implementation of a limited compensatory liability regime”

Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

Congratulations to B. Hanumanth Rao of ICRISAT!

We at CAS-IP would like to formally extend our congratulations to B. Hanumanth Rao, the IP manager at ICRISAT, who recently completed a Master of Business Laws (MBL) from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. 

Hanumanth B Rao being presented his Masters of Business Laws (MBL)The photo shows the graduation ceremony where the degree was presented by the Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan.

Well done Hanumanth!

TK and Folklore in South African IP law bill; critical analysis shouldn’t lead to abandonment
Thanks to Irina Curca from CAS-IP who sent the above link and the following comment:

“A new wave of debate just hit the historically “tough” iceberg of the Traditional Knowledge and Folklore. The Amendment to the South African Intellectual Property Law Bill is now being severely criticized as “abomination that deserves to be thrown on the legal scrapheap”, and is being accused (by a legal expert from Owen Dean of Spoor & Fisher) of being a legal non-sense.

It seems that some of the critiques Owen Dean of Spoor & Fisher can be recognized as valid, since an attentive analysis of the Bill reveals several grey areas which needs further legal refinement. To mention just a few, the terms “indigenous origin” and ” traditional culture” are not defined. Also, the traditional intellectual property assets  (TIP) are supposed (by the Bill) to be managed by an ad hoc institution (a national trust fund), but the rules of the representation of the community within the fund are not defined by the legislator

However, in our view, these shortfalls should not be used, neither manipulated to invalidate the Bill! The recent amendment, in fact, brings with it a huge improvement as it finally allows the communities to protect their inventions, IPRs and to commercialize and license their inventions. This is a huge step forward, as opposed to the original Bill which was supposed to protect the IPRs of the individuals only.”

For further comments check the link below:

The blog aggregator and subsequent attribution debate
These posts raise interesting debate that can be applied to a wider discussion on attribution and the application of fair use principles.  It’s kind of like saying please and thank you!  To properly attribute costs nothing, whereas failing to properly attribute can be damaging –as the comments on these posts can testify.

Intellectual property rights (in Mexico) & maize breeding; a case study
This case study was a link on the WIPO SMEs Newsletter July 2009.  It’s a paper dated 2004 from a study that took place in 2000.  Not sure why WIPO included this item now, but given the relevance of the topic it seemed worth blogging here. 

It deals with, and outlines some important issues.  (N.B for the study Intellectual Property Rights were defined and limited as; patents, plant breeder’s rights & trade secrets only.)  Interestingly the conclusions highlighted a:

“need for further, more precise empirical research on the impacts of IPR strengthening on developing countries’ agriculture.”

Cue Sebastian Derwisch who is leading the CAS-IP SDM modelling project and doing just that!  Sebastian said:

“Assessment of IPRs is difficult as they are often related to inputs of upstream research – so using impact indicators one mixes the impact of IPRs with several other influences that determine an innovation friendly environment and that might even interact with the use of an IPR system.

Current studies are econometric so they treat IPRs as a monolithic block and try to assess the incentives or disincentives that arise from them, ignoring:

  • the dynamics that result from weak or strong enforcement of IPR,
  • the dynamics that result from the specific form or IPR that is applied
  • that in specific points of the value chains different forms of IPR perform different tasks

It’s hard to come by data to assess the impact of IPR on local industries since in most developing countries IPR frameworks have been implemented only recently – comparisons to developed countries need to be handled with care since local companies in variety development are interacting with multinational actors from developed countries, which can change the structure and the development path of local industries fundamentally”