Monthly Archives: April 2010

Inviting Your Input into the Mid-Term Review and Future Scenarios of the CGIAR Central Advisory Service on Intellectual Property

The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the DGIS-funded project at the CGIAR Central Advisory Service on Intellectual Property (CAS-IP) is an internally commissioned and managed review originally designed to inform management of the project within CAS-IP and DGIS. However, it is taking place at a time of great change in the CGIAR and the international agricultural research-for-development community in general. Consequently, DGIS have requested that the MTR also focuses on the development of a robust set of recommendations for the development of effective IP management systems for the CGIAR and its partners in the future.

This is no small task and your input is very important!

The MTR, which is taking place during April – June 2010, will use multiple methods and sources of information to assess CAS-IP performance and recommend options for institutionalizing professional IP Management in the CGIAR and partner organizations.  The Summary Terms of Reference provides further information.

An e-survey and interviews will involve respondents from three groups of primary clients: the Centers of the CGIAR, the CGIAR system-wide initiatives and the CGIAR partners in low income countries. The review team is also eager to seek input from well informed opinions beyond the network of those usually asked to comment on changes in the CGIAR. Thus, the review team invites unsolicited feedback on CAS-IP from any stakeholder group who would like to submit their comments by emailing All comments sent to this address will remain confidential amongst the review team, and no direct attribution of comments will be made in the review report.

Alternatively, please feel free to initiate a dialogue on specific issues through this blog site.

We would be particularly grateful if you could take 15 minutes to complete the e-survey

English available at:

French (available soon)

Spanish (available soon)

Nepal to register TMs for tea and coffee

The government has initiated steps for promoting registration of trademark and international branding of tea and coffee — two popular high potential cash crops that can help trade diversification and widen the country´s export basket.

In an attempt to reverse the economic impact of a decline in exports of clothing and carpets, Nepal’s National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) will coordinate the trademark program and identify ways to promote them in the international markets.  Traders believe that their tea is on a par with Darjeeling and hope that this program will enable them to increase export income.

As mentioned in previous posts, the use of trade marks (or GIs) to boost export revenues needs to be considered within the context of a well formulated market development plan which also addresses enforcement (see

Thanks to Shlomo Bachrach at for this news item.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Brand extension: videos from Africa Rice Center (formerly WARDA)

The journal Development in Practice recently published a paper by Paul Van Mele, Jonas Wanvoeke, and Esperance Zossou, Enhancing rural learning, linkages and institutions: the rice videos in Africa.  A peer review version can be downloaded at:

Africa Rice Center (formerly WARDA) has built a strong brand over the years, and has established a reputation for delivering high quality products to farmers across Africa.  These videos extend the brand identity by delivering high quality and accessible training to further support farmers.  Capitalising on the trust already gained, the “value” of the brand can reach beyond research alone and ensure more effective technology transfer.

By way of an introduction to this work, the preamble observes that:

Africa Rice Center (WARDA) facilitated the development and translation of 11 rice videos. From 2005 to 2009, WARDA partners translated them into more than 30 African languages. Open-air video presentations enhanced learning, experimentation, confidence, trust, and group cohesion among rural people. The videos strengthened capacities of more than 500 organisations and hundreds of thousands of farmers. WARDA’s integrated rural learning approach also helped women to access new markets and credit. Learning videos allow for unsupervised learning; unleash local creativity and experimentation; facilitate institutional innovations; and improve social inclusion of the poor, youth, and women.

The authors also observe that:

Across the board, the potential role of radio and video in strengthening agricultural innovation systems has not been fully explored. In this article, we present on-going work by Africa Rice Center (WARDA) and partners. Attention is paid to the ways in which video complements rural radio in enhancing learning, linkages, and institutions: the three pillars of an innovation system (see also We conclude by addressing some issues of social exclusion arising with the use of media, and we present potential ways to overcome these.

The paper is a must-read for those seeking to use media to effectively support agricultural development, and it is appropriate that Paul Van Mele, AfricaRice’s Learning and Innovation Systems Specialist, was honored with the 2009 CGIAR Outstanding Communications Award.  Paul’s work was also recognized this year by the International Visual Communication Association, which highly commended the video Cashing in with Parboiled Rice in the category of the Industry Award for Effective Communication.

More information on the video library can be found at:

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

“China’s agricultural patents on the rise”

Last month, the SciDevNet posted an article highlighting the rise in patent applications for agricultural innovations in China.  Read the full article “China’s agricultural patents on the rise“.

The article quotes authoritative sources bringing to light statistical data that indicates strong innovation trends in China, despite the world financial crisis.  However, the same article also points out the narrow geographical scope of the agricultural patenting (i.e very few patent applications are filed outside of China) and the possible “takeover” of the Chinese agricultural patent market by the foreign companies.  A leading researcher from CCIPA, Dr Song Min, is quoted by SciDevNet to highlight a lack of awareness of IPRs in the agricultural sector in China and the lack of IP policies at the national level.

CCIPA, as represented by Dr Song Min, has been an excellent partner for CAS-IP in the Asian region.  The representatives (Lu Xin, Dr Song Min, Li Zheng) from CCIPA have repeatedly attended the NPI Initiative and are currently finalizing the case study sponsored by CAS-IP, on “Plant Variety Protection System in China: Achievements, Influences and Challenges”.  (Visit this CAS-IP link for more case studies)

Given the well-established reputation of CCIPA and the close partnership between CAS-IP and CCIPA, it seem important that CAS would turn to CCIPA experts, in particular to Dr Song Min, to get a deeper outlook on the ongoing patenting trends, as it has been reported by the Sci Dev.  Dr Song Min kindly provided the following comment:

“In recent years China has witnessed a huge rise of domestic agricultural patent applications. However, the vast majority of them were just filed in China. According to statistics, so far the amount of patent cooperation treaty (PCT) applications for agricultural innovations is 334 which only make up 1.2 percent of total domestic agriculture-related invention patents. Therefore, China’s international applications in the field of agriculture need to be further reinforced.

Basically, obtaining broad regional or worldwide protection for their core inventions is a very critical (crucial) intellectual Property (IP) strategy adopted by many patent holders particularly those giant international companies. Our survey data shows that Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto have filed 1913, 717 and 413 PCT agricultural patents respectively, moreover all their applications are desired in many countries. Among all agricultural patent applications in China, it’s found that invention patents granted to foreign applicants account for 61.7%. The top five foreign applicants are Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, DuPont Pionner and Monsanto respectively. In their applications, the important technologies of crop protection, genes and recombinant DNA etc. are most claimed.

Correspondingly, China should begin to broaden their narrow country coverage especially for excellent agricultural technologies; otherwise a number of core innovations will be completely besieged by foreign patents. Taking insecticidal crystal protein as example, the average family size of China’s patents is merely 1.7 but similar patent families from US have more than 10 applications. In our opinion, such gap is mainly due to China’s holders’ being not familiar with PCT system and the high cost of filing patent applications globally. “

Post written by Irina Curca, Programme Assistant to CAS-IP

Innovation moving to Asia

In its annual survey of innovation, The 50 Most Innovative Companies, Business Week magazine found that:

Fifteen of the Top 50 are Asian and for the first time since Bloomberg BusinessWeek[1] began its annual Most Innovative Companies ranking in 2005, the majority of corporations in the Top 25 are based outside the U.S. The reason: the new global leaders coming out of Asia.

If you’re interested in innovation, the report and its descriptions of the companies is a good read.

The US lost an estimated 2.4 million factory jobs to China over the last decade.  Now its “innovation edge” is at risk, suggesting that those who are lobbying for education reform are on the right track.  New approaches need to be found to educate and impassion the next generation of scientists and original thinkers in the US.

California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, thinks he has a solution:  radical new measures to make California the bellwether state again — as the leader in reducing greenhouse gases.  Check out The Big Energy Gamble

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

[1] Bloomberg recently bought Business Week from McGraw Hill

“In India, Wal-Mart Goes to the Farm”

Increasingly, multinational companies are establishing raw material production in developing countries to feed their supply chains. An April 12th article in The New York  Times reported on Wal-Mart’s expansion in India and the establishment of its own local vegetable production to supply new retail stores.

Other companies have stepped out of their core businesses and invested in agricultural production to secure raw material supply chains. Michelin owns rubber plantations in Brazil, and Mercedes Benz and Leyte State University in the Philippines work together on a project that is intended to supply Mercedes with fibres from banana plants for car seats. Hoegh, a Norwegian logistics company, owns orange and apple plantations in southern Africa, using its logistical networks to produce and market locally produced orange and apple juice.

The question is, under what circumstances these investments happen and how they affect local markets?  Wal-Mart has engaged in supporting Indian farmers with training and inputs, and farmers are reporting increased yields.  Food prices are expected to drop when Wal-Mart expands this business model. On the downside, this model – with its tightly integrated supply chains – places more market power in fewer hands and, thus, might contribute to the consolidation of markets. The Times observes that:

Not everyone is happy about the company’s presence here. Many Indian activists and policy makers abhor big-box retailing, fearing that it will drive India’s millions of shopkeepers out of business.

In mature markets like Europe and the USA such effects are buffered by competition and regulation, but in less mature markets this might lead to farmer dependency on a single buyer.

But whatever the long-term outcomes of this trend, Wal-Mart (and others) have introduced innovative and sustainable techniques.  The Times describes how:

… visitors can see some curious experiments: insect traps made with reusable plastic bags; bamboo poles helping bitter gourd grow bigger and straighter; and seedlings germinating from plastic trays under a fine net.

 Post written by Sebastian Derwisch, consultant to CAS-IP

Tips for Negotiating Public-Private Collaborations

My attention was drawn to this piece of news recently through the FS-Ag Biotech news portal. CIMMYT has entered into a partnership with Syngenta “to focus on the development and advancement of technology in wheat, the most internationally traded food crop and the single largest food import in developing countries. The agreement will entail joint research and development in the areas of native and GM traits, hybrid wheat and the combination of seeds and crop protection to accelerate plant yield performance.”

I sent the news to Carolina Roa, the IP manager of CIMMYT, and asked if she has tips to share with the IP community in putting together this collaboration. She had the following to say:

“To me there are a couple of key aspects…
1) having clear the centre’s expectations, needs and justifications before entering the collaboration;
2) knowing what it can contribute to the collaboration in terms of assets and looking for complementing and enhancing those assets with the ones of the collaborator;
3) having clear what it wants to deliver, to whom and how (the strategies to do it); and
4) put all these things clearly at the table when the dialogue/discussion with the possible collaborator starts.

Any potential collaborator…will appreciate that, as it facilitates, clarifies and speeds up the process. Something that we’ve found particularly helpful is to articulate these things in a key terms document that will be the basis for the discussion with the potential collaborator…Getting agreement on the key terms document takes away some of the pressure of discussing and entering into a full agreement upfront. The potential parties are more relaxed about discussing, commenting on such a document than on an already made collaboration agreement.”

I think the tips by Carolina are very useful and right on point. We speak of public-private collaborations all the time and how we need to encourage more partnerships in this direction for the benefit of small-scale developing country farmers and creating more public goods. I am sure that many out there who are reading our blog have interesting negotiation experiences to share and I encourage you to use the comment boxes below to let us know your set of tips when negotiating collaborations.

Post written by Guat Hong Teh, Legal Specialist for CAS-IP

Copyright 2010; designing an ‘ideal’ copyright regime

I recently attended the 2010 Copyright Forum that the British Council organised to mark the 300th anniversary of the Statute of Queen Anne. It seems that the majority of the audience agreed on the following points, namely:

• the current copyright regime is inadequate and probably the result of the general laziness of authors, politicians, and publishers (in a lateral sense) who have not adapted their fundamental structures to the changing technology and needs;
• copyright has gone too far and the public is increasingly concerned about preserving the commons and the public domain; however, the expectation is to have completely free and unrestricted access to information and material;
• copyright encourages creation by rewarding authors; however, copyright clearance (the equivalent to Freedom to Operate in patents) has become too lengthy and expensive, so much so as to hinder creativity itself;
• using and sharing information and data can only increase knowledge, and only attribution should be a matter of concern;
• technology should be seen as the solution rather than the problem to the current condition; authors should carve out what users are not allowed to do rather than the other way round (effectively what Creative Commons does);
• too many restrictions prevent the use of knowledge and information in a way which could potentially benefit developing countries as in the case of poor scientists who should have access openly and freely.
I think we cannot disagree with the above considerations. However, I would like to make a few further comments:
1. How effective are these kind of discussions? There is a common agreement that copyright should serve culture and education and that new legal frameworks, which enable the use and sharing of information, should be developed. Yet, secretive discussions on anti-counterfeiting (and beyond) rules without any degree of transparency are going on.
2. Discussions should not be confined to national levels. Today’s technology allows users in every part of the world to access work and information no matter where it is created and held. Therefore, the principles and rules of how to protect, guarantee the use/reproduction/dissemination etc., and exploit to the author’s benefit need to have a global prospective.
3. Are we really sure that without copyright protection innovation and productivity would not continue? Or are we effectively merely concerned with the preservation of economic monopoly (as in the case of Walt Disney)?
4. Developing countries need to be careful with the copyright system they adopt and/or enforce. It seems to me that the risk for countries which mimic the developed world is that the different background and conditions will lead to a friction within the system. However, at the same time, those countries which do not have a copyright regime yet, have in front of them a clean sheet upon which they can draw a set of rules and practices which would not be encumbered by the same practices that have and are currently hampering our countries.

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

This post was a follow up to our previous blog item on the Copyright Forum.  Click HERE to view our submission prior to the event.  For further information and discussion about this initiative you can visit these pages of counterpoint online


Intellectual Asset Management to make available virus resistant papaya to small-scale farmers in Peru

Intellectual Property (IP) Management is essential for agricultural R&D processes and activities. In fact, most of the technologies and materials used in them are protected by Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).  However, most national research centers are not aware of the legal restrictions that some technologies and materials they use are subject to (under IPRs).  Consequently, they are not conscious of the potential conflicts that may arise in their daily activities, thus placing their own research, projects and institutions at risk.

The National Partners Initiative (NPI) of CAS-IP is publishing the last of five working papers from five Agricultural Research Institutions in developing countries. These case studies aim to share experiences from developing countries in the areas surrounding IP policy-making, policy implementation and use of IPRs by researchers for leveraging more benefits to the stakeholders, people, institutions and countries.

This case examines the Peruvian National Agricultural Innovation Institute (INIA).  The authors took one example of a project being executed by INIA, analyzed the IP issues and identified how these issues impact researchers’ daily activities.  This will help them to realize that IP needs to be constantly taken into consideration. An additional purpose of this case study is to trigger, in the near future, a complete understanding of the importance of IP and a sequence of actions leading to the development of an internal and appropriate IP Policy for INIA.  Finally, the authors’ assessment allowed identification of issues that may affect the development of the technology initiated by the project and its commercialization in Peru and, potentially, in other countries.

The full text can be viewed by clicking HERE.

Post written by Karine Malgrand, Facilitator of the National Partners Initiative for CAS-IP

Can science reverse erosion of Darjeeling brand credibility?

Darjeeling tea is one of the most expensive tea varieties in the world and is prized by connoisseurs for its distinctive taste and aroma.  Originating from a small area of India’s West Bengal state, there are only 86 Tea Estates that currently produce Darjeeling Tea. All of these are in Darjeeling District, and only teas coming from these estates can be called Darjeeling Tea.

A recent press release, details of which can be read here, indicates that the University of West Australia’s Forensic and Analytical Chemistry Group will be using isotopic analysis as an analytic tool to address fraudulent labelling of Darjeeling tea.

The Tea Board of India, a non-profit entity set up by the Indian government to administer the trade and marketing of Indian tea, controls the Darjeeling trademark. This is registered in the US and is protected under various jurisdictions.  There is a highly protected and distinctive Darjeeling logo that has only been used by the producers, packers and exporters, under license and authority of the Tea Board.  This strict control over the brand is an example of the use of intellectual property regimes to protect intangible assets and to generate income for people in developing countries.

But even with these efforts, there have been widespread reports of fraudulent use of the logo, and evidence that as much as 50% of tea sold as Darjeeling in Germany is in fact inferior product.  And according to

Almost 40 million kg is sold as “Darjeeling Tea” when the actual production capacity is just 10 million. Most of this tea comes from Sri Lanka and Kenya …Some of the fake tea is called Lanka Darjeeling or Hamburg Darjeeling but most of the time it’s called Pure Darjeeling.

The Tea Board has been unable to adequately enforce its trademark and, as a result, the brand credibility has suffered with an ensuing loss of consumer confidence.  The question is whether scientific traceability can be an effective tool in reversing this erosion.  Experience suggests that a significant investment in enforcement will also be necessary.  For more on this subject, see’s-gi-bill

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP