Monthly Archives: January 2010

The adaptation of innovation

In the development arena, these days we hear a lot about “innovation” but not as much about adaption and how this can be a key to success.  According to an article in Monday’s (25Jan) Wall Street Journal, the authors report that with innovations in the area of IT –on-line auctions, book sellers, word processing, –being a follower has its advantages.   

According to the article it’s “easier to imitate” and followers can develop a long-term vision, for example using a “staircase” strategy to ensure a market niche.  (The staircase strategy apparently involves an analysis of how to link existing products as well as planning for future scenarios –e.g. making it easy to “upgrade” to newer versions.)   It seems that few “first-movers” are able to sustain and capitalize on their initial successes.

Thanks to “The Intangible Economy” blog, where I first saw the link to the WSJ item.

Post written by Victoria Henson-Apollonio, Manager of CAS-IP

Does a declaration of “cultural heritage” constitute protection?

SciDevNet ran a story today outlining how “the Peruvian government has declared the knowhow associated with growing a variety of large-eared white maize to be ‘cultural heritage’”.  The item included some discussion about whether there was any legal effect to this move, and that of the earlier ‘designation of origin’ granted to the crop in 2005.

There are no specific details on the item – but its important to remember this is not an end in itself.  What we can say is that it doesn’t matter that it might not hold water in a legal sense, if that’s not the purpose.  Protection can be expansive as well as restrictive.  Such a move could for example serve to ensure the knowledge is officially documented and hence in the public domain.  Once in the public domain misappropriation is more difficult.

However, further probing might lead to questions such as: What would the community be expecting to get from this?  How has this been explained to them?  Then one would need to consider the legalities further to determine whether or not cultural heritage declaration or designation of origin are appropriate tools to meet the expectations.

Some practical steps on how to “detect, fight and report the unlicensed republication of your content”

An interesting article on Robin Good’s media blog today provides some practical steps to deal with online plagiarism.

The item collates links to relevant articles and sites to help deal with this growing problem.  From free tools to detect plagiarism to how to report unauthorised re-use of your content.  It’s a great selection of resources – thanks Robin Good!

Ethiopia’s GI Bill

Ethiopia is in the process of ratifying a Geographical Indication Bill to protect indigenous products.  According to Addis Fortune

“Among these location-branded products are Tigray and Masha white honey, Harar senga (bulls fattened to be butchered), Dendi garlic, Limu coffee, Assosa mangos, Ankober sunflowers, and Debre Brehan brandy.” 

 (Thanks to Shlomo Bachrach ( for the link) 

The article describes an ongoing project intended to identify products which might benefit from GI protected branding.  This looks like a good idea and might result in increased incomes for producers.  But the value of IP protection – whether a trademark or a GI – will eventually be determined by the ability of the owner to enforce the grant of rights. 

Corporate trademark owners such as Volkswagen, Levi Strauss and Starbucks invest in protecting their global brands by employing investigators to ferret out black market products and other infringements of their IP.  One of the best examples of a GI that is backed up by heavyweight enforcement is owned by Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma (association of Parma Ham® producers, CPP).  In a well-known 2003 case, CPP successfully sued ASDA: 

“UK supermarket Asda has lost a battle to sell authentic Parma ham under the Parma brand, when the meat is sliced and pre-packed in Britain.” 

CPP has protected production methodology, origin, packaging AND how the ham is sliced! 

The CPP is a powerful producer group because its members sell large quantities of Parma Ham, generating sufficient revenues to protect the GI.  If indeed Ethiopian producers procure GIs for products such as Ankober sunflowers, will sales volume generate sufficient revenues to adequately police usage of the name?  Even well known global brands such as Kiwi (shoe polish) are not policed in Africa; although Kiwi polish is widely available, it is all counterfeit.  Presumably Sara Lee Corporation (which acquired a number of UK brands from Reckitt and Coleman) cannot justify the cost of enforcement in Africa. 

 The Ethiopian coffee trademarking program was well conceived and generated a high level of attention from the international press.  But there is still little evidence that this initiative resulted in any income gains for producers.  A number of NGOs provide IP training in developing countries, and it might be advisable for them to position IP as one tool of many in the market development toolbox.  Without sustainable marketing plans and enforcement programs, these IP-centric initiatives are unlikely to be successful. 

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Sustainable agriculture in Bolivia: Coca Colla

Last week  IP Tango drew my attention to some news from the South American continent that made me wonder whether the Bolivian government is being extremely strategic in its use of intellectual property, or not….

According to the item, Bolivia with the support of its president Evo Morales, have decided to start investing in the production of a new soft drink called “Coca-Colla Energy”.  There are of course many discussions to be had around the inevitable accusations of trade mark infringements from Coca-Cola (even though it is difficult to see how Coca-Colla could really damage its better known sister)! 

Whilst encouraging the local industry of a developing country is a good thing; coca is not going to sustain and feed the Bolivian population – and the Government wants to allocate 20,000 hectares to growing it!  It is also highly likely that there will be reactions in relation to the narcotic issue.  The International Narcotics Control Board has tried for years to ban coca leaf chewing, and could claim that the use of coca leaves in a different product should also be banned.  However, it is interesting to see that Bolivia’s new constitution, drafted by the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, recognises coca as “cultural heritage, a natural and renewable resource of biodiversity in Bolivia and a factor of social cohesion” and thus not a narcotic in its natural state…

Whatever the merits of this particular product and its obvious stance against a giant of global capitalism, the proposal raises interesting issues about alternative ways of exploiting IP for development; even if it is not quite ‘the real thing’!

Spanish speakers might enjoy the humorous comments from Renzo Colanzi.

Post written by Francesca Re Manning, consultant to CAS-IP

France and Google; plans for alternative to Google Books emerging

According to CNET news, France is planning a possible rival to Google Books.  The plan includes a service initially funded by the government but hoped to be supported by online advertisements after that.

The article reports that Mitterrand (France’s culture minister) had said:

“”Google came to Europe as a conqueror, and many (publishers) have opened the door by signing agreements that I find unacceptable … based on excessive confidentiality, impossible exclusivity, and a casual, even one-sided approach to copyright.””

“France” and “Google” yield a lot of search engine returns of late.  In December a court ruled against Google in a “lengthy copyright infringement case filed by a French publisher” and more recently the so-called “Google Tax” that was recently proposed by Sarkozy.
On the same issue The Telegraph talked of “a new Gallic run-in with Google” and reported:

“Google France’s general director, Olivier Esper, called on the government to “favour co-operation” rather than “a logic of opposition between the worlds of internet and culture, for example, via the logic of taxation”.”

France’s plans have sprung from the recent government-commissioned survey which you can view here, using translation services from guess who….!

“ResearchGATE and Its Savvy Use of the Web”

The ResearchGATE site links researchers from around the world and is driving homegrown, locally relevant innovation in developing nations.

You can read the story at:

“When Dr. Kelvin Leshabari was studying in 2008 for his medical degree in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, he felt isolated from medical researchers in the rest of the world.  But then he stumbled upon a U.S.-based Web site, ResearchGATE, that takes the social networking concepts underlying popular services such as Facebook and LinkedIn and applies them to the research community.”

We are familiar with The Honeybee Network, a database of grassroots innovations developed by Indian farmers, but a LinkedIn style network for agricultural researchers represents a quantum leap.

ResearchGATE serves a variety of communities of interest, from law and physics to earth science and economics.  And it serves agricultural research at:
(Subsets (19) include agronomy, irrigation and horticulture.)

ResearchGATE claims 180,000 subscribers, is free of charge, and offers tools that support collaboration and professional networking.  And there is an associated blog at:

The rationale for the site is explained by the founders:

“We have also experienced that research collaboration, the exchange of promising ideas or a cooperative grant application work best if the co-researcher is a trusted and known person. In the best case, he’s a good friend.

“Social scientists have long recognized the importance of boundary-spanning individuals in diffusing knowledge (Allen 1977; Tushman 1977), and recently, several papers have rigorously demonstrated that technological knowledge diffuses primarily through social relations, not through publications.”

Sorenson, Olav and Singh, Jasjit, “Science, Social Networks and Spillovers” (December 26, 2006)”

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Starbucks & ‘Charbucks’; protecting a brand

The coffee retailer Starbucks has always vigorously protected its brand name.  While this is a wise business decision, they sometimes go too far.  In this case, a small roaster in New Hampshire (Wolfe’s Borough Coffee) created a blend they called “Charbucks”, referencing the darkness of the blend.  Starbucks went after the small company and lost.

Now, according to Bloomberg, the case “was revived after a federal appeals court vacated part of a ruling favoring the smaller company”.  You can read the story at:  Also visit the FindLaw site for case summary and links to the full decision.

Starbucks has taken legal action against dozens of alleged infringers of their IP.  Perhaps the most ridiculous was an attempt in 2006 to claim ownership of the term “double shot”.  Matthew Williams (“I live coffee”) commented on that:

“I don’t think Starbucks (or any other company) should be allowed to trademark the name of a particular product that is based on a common usage idiom (units of measure in this case). Imagine a company making hotdogs trademarking “footlong” or a snack maker trademarking “cupcake.””

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

MySQL, the future of the best known open source product

Towards the end of 2009 there has been much speculation about the future of MySQL, which boasts, with good reason, the tagline “the world’s most popular open source database”.

This is an important news item for “the opens”.  In case you are not aware of MySQL and it’s widespread use, here is a short exerpt from the MySQL wikipedia page:

“MySQL is often used in free software projects that require a full-featured database management system, such as WordPress, phpBB and other software built on the LAMP software stack. It is also used in many high-profile, large-scale World Wide Web products including Wikipedia, Google and Facebook.”

So, back to the story — Sun Microsystems bought MySQL in 2008, and now Oracle are in the process of aquiring Sun.  The concern, acording to a Computer World blog is that because Oracle has its own flagship database offering (in the high end corporate end of the market) it will have little incentive to improve the open source MySQL product.

They are not the only ones to be concerned.  Yahoo! News reports the European Commission objections regarding competition in the database market.  The item focuses on a campaign launched by the MySQL creator to try and stop the deal. Not everyone agrees, report comments from competitor IBM who claim that there is no antitrust issue.  MySQL, they report, isnt a competitor for the more sophisticated database products of Oracle.

After the EC hearing the Register reported on the discussions in Brussels which are instrumental for the deal to be approved by regulators in Europe (the deal has already been approved in the US):

“Oracle said it would “publicly commit” to making MySQL’s storage engine APIs available to vendors. It also declared a number of licence promises including “non-assertion” and “to enhance MySQL in the future under the GPL”…. “A final legal deadline for a decision on the Oracle/Sun Microsytems deal is 27 January 2010″”

Oracle published a 10 point plan to ease customer’s concerns about the future of the best known open source product.

Let’s see what the EC think when they make their decision later this month.

Tax & development

I must confess that despite my puzzlement at the UK Government’s latest approach to intellectual property (see CAS-IP blog of 3 December 2009), I was pleased to read on Information Age that one of the suggestions in the pre-budget proposal, includes the UK Treasury intention to decrease tax income generated by patents from 28% to 10%.  Chancellor Alastair Darling explaining the proposal said:

“I want to encourage research into pharmaceuticals and the biotechnology industry”.

It seems that the UK is following the current European trend, in particular that of the Belgium’s government.  I am curious to hear from our readers what the patents’ income tax is in their countries, especially in developing countries. Please drop us a message to let us know!

Post written by Francesca Re Manning, consultant to CAS-IP