Monthly Archives: October 2010

USAID latest commitment to global food security; remarks to the World Food Prize Conference

Earlier this month at the World Food Prize Conference held in Des Moines, the USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah made a speech.  “USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah speaks at the 2010 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue

Here are some extracts that I thought might be of interest:

“…we are focused on global food security in a way that, we have not been since the earliest days of the Green Revolution.

“…we are also working with the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research, or CGIAR, to support their new “megaprograms.” These programs focus on high‐potential research into new seed varieties, effective agricultural policy reforms, and better water and soil management practices. We doubled our investment in these megaprograms, making us the single largest supporter of CGIAR.”

He then went on to announce:

“…today I’m unveiling the Feed the Future Private Investment Center; a new public‐private partnership hub…

This hub will expand on existing relationships with multinationals and local businesses, and facilitate engagement with new private sector partners. Companies interested in joining this effort can e-mail us at ftfbusinesshub@usaid.gov.”

According to an article on America.gov, “Green Revolution Within Reach in Africa

“USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said free markets and private investment are key elements of the Obama administration’s Feed the Future program, aimed at reducing hunger. He told the participants at the Borlaug Dialogue that a new Feed the Future Private Investment Center will begin operation in the program’s original 20 countries, 16 of which are in Africa.
Shah said that in Tanzania, for example, the Private Investment Center will offer loan guarantees to local firms that sell farmers seeds and process and transport their harvested crops. Shah said the guarantees equip the companies “with the spark they need to mature their businesses and grow their country.”

For more information:
Feed the Future

(sample implementation plans: NIGERIA. FY 2010 Implementation Plan
KENYA. FY 2010 Implementation Plan)

The World Food Prize

(Thanks to Victoria for sending me the link to the speech)

Google and Privacy Issues



Google is no stranger to criticism about privacy issues, the most recent of which concerned data “accidentally” collected as part of the Google Street View project.  The news was reported on the BBC “Privacy body to re-examine Google

 “Britain’s privacy watchdog is to look again at what personal information internet giant Google gathered from private wi-fi networks… Google had “accidentally” grabbed data from unsecured hotspots for years as its Street View cars captured images of street scenes. In total it is thought to have grabbed about 600 gigabytes of data.”

The concerns mounted as it surfaced the data included emails and passwords.  An interesting comment that was included in the article from a radio phone-in, the caller had questioned individuals who do not secure their networks and then complain that their privacy is breached.  Of course we have a responsibility to make sure our data is secure – and stories like this one serve as a reminder of our own responsibilities.  However, Google knows a lot about its users and given their product improvements depend on this knowledge they need us to trust them!  To their credit they appear to take this responsibility seriously – they even have a team of engineers dedicated to help users control the personal details held in Google products – see dataliberation.org

I like to pay attention to stories like these, as privacy issues are of interest when considering the managing of information and intellectual assets.

Innovation Update

Three recent columns in Business Week look at innovation from different perspectives:

Clarifying Innovation for Success

According to Innosight’s Mark W. Johnson, innovation:

…must be managed like any other key process of the company. Before you can manage it, you must understand what it is—and isn’t.

Innovation That’s ‘Born to Run’

This column takes an out-of-the-box approach by citing three lessons that business leaders and innovators can learn from Bruce Springsteen’s music.  One of these lessons is about the upside of failure:

Failure can cause embarrassment, even job separation, or serve as an important part of the drive to innovation success. That’s point No. 1: Leaders celebrate failure. Knowing what doesn’t work leads us closer to discovering what does. We call this looking for the “bounce.” Bruce would say, “Come on up for the rising” (from The Rising).

All the indicators suggest that the CG must reinvent itself as an innovation engine that will have real impact on its core constituency of small holder farmers in developing countries.  CG managers may want to look outside the research “umbrella” and develop a better understanding of how the private sector views innovation – there may be valuable lessons to be learned.

MBA ‘Energy Detectives’ Help Companies Cut Costs

One organization that has responded to the groundswell of interest among students is the Environmental Defense Fund, a Washington (D.C.) nonprofit that runs the Climate Corps summer internship program in conjunction with Net Impact. Every summer, the EDF selects a group of MBA interns to uncover potential energy efficiency improvements at companies, asking the students to become energy detectives, examining their summer employer’s lighting, computer equipment, and heating and cooling systems.

Given the high level of unemployment in the USA, especially among recent graduates, there might be an opportunity here:  some of these Climate Corps fellows might be interested in internships with CG centers where they could contribute to addressing local climate related challenges.   Such a program would benefit these communities and serve to introduce interns to the realities of agricultural development.

 Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Avoiding plagiarism; ethics, attribution and authorship

SciDev.net recently posted an item entitled “Plagiarised scientific papers plague India”, dealing with some recent plagiarism controversies, and bemoaning a lack of intervention at government level.

“Nandula Raghuram, secretary of the Delhi-based Society for Scientific Values, an independent watchdog, told SciDev.Net that the Indian government has not heeded calls for an independent ethics body in the country.”

Attribution and authorship are critical issues to any research organisation anywhere in the world, but in practical terms how can we  make sure people are properly credited for their work?  High profile plagiarism cases certainly bring it out in the open, but nobody wants to see those (apart from the original authors perhaps!)

The SGRP published in August 2010 a “Booklet of CGIAR Centre Policy Instruments, Guidelines and Statements on Genetic Resources, Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Rights” of which ethics is a part.  However, these statements don’t deal with issues at the level of plagiarism or copyright. 

An old post on the Scientific Misconduct blog: ““We promise to be honest” at the University of Toronto – is it enough?”, talks of the University of Toronto’s use of an “honest oath”  – an interesting way of making sure people are aware of their responsibilities.  Dealing with this issue at the time contracts are signed certainly confirms awareness, but how effective is it?

We need to pay attention to these issues.  As the role of social media and knowledge sharing increases, we will need to pay even more attention to make sure individual creators are not forgotten.

Results of the Review of CAS-IP and Future Scenarios of IP Management in the CGIAR

What will intellectual asset management look like in the new CGIAR?

As yet we don’t know.  But we do know that proper IP management is crucial to facilitate the exchange of CGIAR outputs as well as to support trust in collaborations, so it will not be ignored.  To inform the decisions that the new Consortium Office will be taking in the coming months, DGIS commissioned a review of our unit, and requested that it incorporate an in-depth look at IP management in agricultural development as a whole.  The result is one of the most comprehensive documents written on this topic.

But, the job is not done yet.  Although the review incorporates the views of many, we would like to initiate a broader discussion on IP and A4D (agriculture for development).  To this end, we have set up a public consultation process online.  All comments will be compiled and officially added to the report, we hope for use by the agricultural development community at-large.

Browse the results of the review HERE “Review Site” (includes executive summaries in French & Spanish)

Have your say and leave a comment HERE “Public Consultation of the Review”

For a one-page discussion document of the review click HERE “2010 Review of the Central Advisory Service for Intellectual Property (CAS-IP) and Future Scenarios of Intellectual Property Management in the CGIAR”

For those with low-bandwidth connections please click HERE for site map with no graphics.

“Who owns the genes of the forest trees?”

trees image from stock xchngI was interested to learn that the question of who owns the genes of forest trees has no clear legal definition.  See the Press Release from an event connected with EURFORGEN[1] entitled “Who owns the genes of the forest trees?

“Is it the owner of the tree, the owner of the land or perhaps the finder of the propagating material who gains the ownership right?”

The press release went on to say (emphasis is my own):

“Carl Gustav Thornström of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences … had warned that we are moving towards too much political correctness on this whole genetic resources issue without proper regard to practicality… He made a plea for far better training of people in the interface between law and genetics so that perhaps new thinking could be applied to resolving these forest genetic conundrums.”

In addition to the materials on the EUFORGEN site there was a background paper prepared for the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture entitled: “The Use and Exchange of Forest Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The hope is that some legal frameworks on access and benefit sharing (including forest resources) might be delivered during the latest rounds of the CBD meetings taking place this month in Japan.

(thanks Karine Malgrand for sending the EURFORGEN link to me)


[1] “EUFORGEN is a collaborative programme among European countries to promote conservation and sustainable use of forest genetic resources.”

Fast-track patents at USPTO

The USPTO has been discussing a variety of possible scenarios that might be introduced to alleviate the patent examination backlog.  At this time, approximately 700,000 applications are in line for processing.  In the high-tech sector there is often a direct connection between the status of a patent and the ability to secure financing.

According to Business Week, “Patent Reform: High Stakes for Small Biz

Letting patent applicants speed up or delay examinations could help small businesses if fees don’t put the fast-track reviews out of reach.

Although Congress may have to approve some of the changes, the USPTO hopes to be able to implement the fast-track by mid-2011.

For the latest from USPTO on the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH)

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

EMRC Agribusiness Forum

Last week I attended this major Africa-centric event in Kampala, Uganda.  The theme of the Forum was “Food Security: A Business Opportunity”, and the focus was on creating new business partnerships to boost, innovate and revamp the African agro-food sector.  The event was attended by NGOs and government, and the private sector was represented by investors, entrepreneurs and banking.

You can find the program, along with speaker and other information, at:

http://www.emrc.be/en/events/agribusiness-forum-2010.aspx

The general consensus was that the sector still lacks financing options and that this is a major constraint on growth, especially in light of the fact that interest on bank loans, if they are available, is around 20%.  As one of many examples, tomatoes do very well in Uganda and this year’s crop was so bountiful that there was a glut on the market and prices crashed.  Yet the ketchup served at my hotel was imported from Egypt.  This is one of many examples of a missed opportunity – Uganda could be processing tomatoes for distribution throughout East and Southern Africa.

There are entrepreneurs with vision in the agrodealer sector, but their potential is limited by their inability to finance expansion.  Loan guarantees (e.g., AGRA) and enlightened bank financing (e.g., Rabobank) have certainly helped, but the entire sector continues to be constrained.  The Forum did, however, provide valuable opportunities for the various stakeholder groups to meet, interact and discuss collaborations.

Fake products (which we have addressed on several occasions) continue to be a problem, and reliable sources indicate that 40%-50% of all crop protection products sold in Uganda are fake.  Entrepreneurs order packaging from China that mimics popular products, counterfeit the labels and then fill the containers with inferior generic product (e.g., glycophosphate).  Even multinationals like Monsanto have failed to protect their IP, and the entire agricultural sector suffers from reduced productivity and excessive costs as a result.  Government response has, for the most part, been that there are insufficient resources to launch appropriate regulatory initiatives.

With some well-publicized and notable exceptions (e.g., Ghanaian pineapple, Rwandan coffee) the agricultural sector in most countries is still typified by broken supply and distribution chains and by market distortions such as government subsidies and NGO donation of inputs.  There is, however, a growing consensus that a market-driven approach to value chain development is probably the only viable pathway leading to a sustainable increase in output.

EMRC is well-organized, and in all likelihood you will be able to download a detailed report on the Forum within a week or two at http://www.emrc.be/en/events/past-events.aspx

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Open Innovation; how should we deal with the IP?

Last week we blogged an item about an innovation competition:  “Innovation prizes can lead to paradigm shifts.” Competitions and other forms of open innovation are fast becoming the way business is done.  I started looking into this and found this blog post with some background materials “Resources for learning about open innovation” – this led me to listen to a very informative talk on TED given by Charles Leadbeater where he:

“…weaves a tight argument that innovation isn’t just for professionals anymore.  Passionate amateurs, using new tools, are creating products and paradigms that companies can’t”

He discusses how private sector researchers are embracing the notion of open innovation and building it into their business model.  Leadbeater argues that those who don’t adopt open innovation will not be able to remain competitive.  He talks about turning:

“..users into producers, consumers into designers”

This has real application!  A continuous and open two-way process between researcher and user.  However, it certainly needs some thinking about in terms of dealing with IP.  Back to the X-Prize competition and last week’s blog post.  Their website Terms & Conditions page indicates that:

“Assignment and Ownership of Submissions
By Posting a Submission, you thereby irrevocably assign, transfer, deliver and otherwise convey to X PRIZE all rights, titles and interests therein and X PRIZE accepts the foregoing assignment. Therefore, X PRIZE may, in its sole discretion and without penalty, use, copy, reproduce, prepare derivative works based upon, distribute, perform and display such information in whole or in part, in any form, media or technology known or hereafter developed as long as such use is consistent with our Privacy Policy.”

Assignment of rights!?  For all submissions!?  I found this just skim reading the fine print.  With an initiative of this kind I would have expected some words of assurance that my ideas would be safe — instead of which I read on the Privacy Policy pages, (emphasis is my own):

2.2 How We Use This Information

Pursuant to the Terms of Use, you have expressly assigned all rights in and to Submissions (as defined in the Terms of Use) to X PRIZE. X PRIZE and/or its subsidiaries may, in their sole discretion, use information submitted at the time of registration or any Submissions for marketing, promotional and any other commercial purposes and may share such information or Submissions with our promotional partners in accordance with the Terms of Use.

I have no doubt this topic will only continue to grow in importance as online collaboration and sharing becomes the norm.  I will have a look to see if I can find any information about how the likes of Syngenta or Proctor & Gamble deal with these delicate issues.  If anyone has any information on this please get in touch and let us know!

Data and case studies on IP around the world

Some new offerings from WIPO were recently announced: WIPO Lex and IP Advantage (we saw it reported on the news area of the IPR helpdesk site)

WIPO Lex which slots into the WIPO gold portal is described as:

“…an on-line global IP reference resource that provides up-to-date information on national IP laws and treaties.”

 IP Kat rightly said:

“A dip into WIPO Lex will be sure to fulfil the IP desires of even the most fact obsessed.” 

 The second resource is IP Advantage which:

“…profiles the IP experiences of inventors, creators, entrepreneurs, and researchers. The case studies featured in the database demonstrate how IP works in the real world and how IP rights can be used to promote innovation.

 So, if you believe that the devil is in the detail then this 2nd tool is particularly interesting!  A couple of examples of the case studies included are: Branding of Egyptian Cotton and Linking Collective Marks with Growth and Development (Milk products in Peru).

Well done and thank you to WIPO for making these new resources available to all!

Let’s not forget the minds of the NPI and the information they have produced that can complement this collection.   The “IP Compendium” is an insider’s view to the IP systems in some developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.  And ongoing case studies produced by the group provide more of the practical detail of what that means. See the list of NPI publications HERE.