Monthly Archives: December 2010

Last chance to comment; future scenarios of IP management in the CGIAR

Back in October we blogged the “Results of the Review of CAS-IP and Future Scenarios of IP Management in the CGIAR” and we invited comments.  This was a report published after an evaluation exercise of both our unit and our function. 

The team who conducted the review process said in their report:

“We firmly believe that the management (or mismanagement) of intellectual property will be a primary factor in determining the future of the CGIAR’s contributions to agricultural innovation systems that will help ensure global food security, poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability.”

The consultation part of this process is now coming to a close.  If you wish to comment, please do so before the end of the year.  We would very much like to hear your views on what IP management in the CGIAR should consist of.

Browse the results of the review HERE “Review Site”.  Low bandwidth version available  Have your say and leave a comment.

Some people have written to us directly, preferring not to contribute to an online discussion.  If you wish to submit your comments in this way please email:


EPO overturns plant biotech patents

A blog post: “Controversial plant biotech patents overturned” talked about the important news about the EPO recently overturning two controversial patents for broccoli and tomato varieties, varieties that were produced using conventional breeding techniques. Genetic markers were used to breed the desired traits. Nature say:

“According to EU law, biological processes for the production of plants or animals are not allowed to be patented. But the law regards marker-assisted selection as a technical process, and therefore patentable. The broccoli and tomato patents were awarded on this basis…

…After years of appeals and hearings, the cases reached the EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal, its highest level of jurisdiction. In a ruling on 9 December, the board agreed with industry that the patents covered the whole selection and breeding process and therefore should not be allowed…

..This decision does not affect the patentability of inventions or technical steps such as genetic markers”

The news was also reported on the EPO site “No European patents for essentially biological breeding processes

“The EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal has now rendered its decisions in the so-called “broccoli” (G 2/07) and “tomato” (G 1/08) cases, bearing on the correct interpretation of the term “essentially biological processes for the production of plants (or animals)” used in the European Patent Convention (EPC) to exclude such processes from patentability.

The Enlarged Board of Appeal is the highest instance in the EPO’s judiciary and, as all other Boards of Appeal of the EPO, acts in full independence of the Office in carrying out its duties. Its task is to ensure a uniform application of the patent law under the EPC.”

For more info:

The battle of the broccoli and tomatoes

Broccoli and tomato patents – European Patent Office

WIPO, ICG and the meeting of working groups on TK and Genetic Resources

I wanted to repost this from the IPKat, entitled “Progress on folklore, culture, genetic resources: ‘streamlining’ in sight.”  They are referring, with comment, to the WIPO media release “IGC Makes Significant Progress, Sets the Stage for Working Groups on GRs and TK

The following may be of interest to our readers:

“The third IWG, to take place from February 28 to March 4, 2011, will address the subject of intellectual property and genetic resources. The Committee transmitted a series of existing documents to IWG 3, and suggested that IWG 3 prepare a draft text of objectives and principles as well as a draft list of options for future work. These would be transmitted for consideration by the Committee at its next session in May 2011. Discussions on genetic resources also saw the introduction of new proposals by the African Group and by Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States of America. [The Kat suspects that, in practice, this will be the most keenly-contested area since the possibility of financial reward is so great and the interest in sharing it is correspondingly high].”

And I have to agree, the original article has MORE than its fair share of acronyms – something we of the CGIAR’s CAS-IP know all too much about…

(thanks to Francesca Re Manning for sending me this link)

What’s in a name? Know the value of your IP

On December 8th, an auction of inactive trade marks took place in New York.  According to NPR’s Marketplace:

Michael Reich owns Brands USA Holdings, the company selling the trademarks. He says old brand names can be used to sell new products, anchor a website or tap into the growing market for kitsch, you know, T-shirts and tchotchkes with vintage logos.

You can read or listen to the story at:

These marks are often referred to as “zombie brands”.  They are inactive – think Circuit City, Sharper Image and Brim (as in “Fill it to the rim – with Brim”). Marketers who recognize the inherent value are breathing new life into these, and other storied brand names.

You can read more on “Imation Brings Dead Brands Back to Life

What is remarkable is that:

Memorex dropped its signature TV ads, with their “Is it live or is it Memorex?” tagline, more than 30 years ago. And yet…research surveys showed that 95% of U.S. consumers knew the name, even among people in their 30s.

The message is simple:  know the value of your IP, whether it be patents, trade marks – or brand names.

Post written by Peter Bloch

“How can Africa grow more food?”

The Guardian reports on, yes, more reports about food security in Africa, “How Can Africa Grow More Food?

I was struck by an observation about agricultural technology that nails one of the crucial challenges faced by the new, improved CGIAR:

One old hand in the field told me the other day that, on average, it takes 46 years for agricultural innovations to get from the laboratory to widespread use in the field in Africa; it’s not lack of technology that is the problem but effective means to disseminate practical solutions. Technology might be able to achieve quick fixes in health on the continent, but they might be elusive in agriculture because it entails much more complex issues of land rights and power.

The Guardian coverage was prompted by the publication of a new book, The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, a product of the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project.

Reader comments at are passionate and well worth reading.  One blogger, pngahgita, ends a lengthy comment with an observation:

Now, he who controls the seed industry is master over life and death in the long run!

That reminded me why CAS made such an investment in trying to get the DoJ to broaden the scope of their enquiry into concentration in the seed industry to include developing countries.  Read the paper “Potential Impact of U.S.-Based Seed Company Competition on Access to Seed in the Developing Country Context”.

Post written by Peter Bloch

The Plumpy’nut patent: well protected but now also widely available in the developing world

This has been sitting on my desk for a while.  One of the reasons I waited before blogging it was I wanted to see what others in the online community were going to make of the news. 

Many of you will remember the saga of the Plumpy’nut patent.  The web was literally buzzing during 2010 with news about the Plumpy’nut patent.  The high profile articles included the Andrew Rice article in the New York Times, and Jeffrey Sachs in the Huffington Post.  For previous CAS-IP posts on the subject visit:

So the update is this;  in October Nutriset announced that a “Patent Usage Agreement” is now available online for the Plumpy’nut patent.  What does this mean?  Well, providing some basic requirements are met, anyone can download a Patent User Agreement to produce and distribute the product.

 “It allows a company or an organization to manufacture, market and distribute products covered by Nutriset/IRD patents. Eligible entities wishing to do so, can subscribe simply and quickly, in just a few clicks online, a Patents Usage Agreement”

I downloaded a copy of the agreement which can be viewed here.

The requirements for eligibility are pretty basic.  You need to be a legal entity based in one of the developing countries where the patent has been filed (of course where there is no patent filed no licence is required anyway).  There is no compulsory fee to be paid, although IRD do “invite” a 1% of sales turnover be contributed towards research work.

What has the online community said about this announcement?   Not a lot from the searches I did, and from my RSS feeds….  Which is a shame as it certainly seems that Nutriset are trying to honor their commitment to make this product accessible and available – and there was a lot of negative media attention earlier in the year to the contrary. 

From the CAS-IP perspective it’s an interesting turn in the story.  In my first post on this topic I wrote:

“…the argument that underpins this, and many other similar stories [is that] IP relating to a product with a humanitarian nature should somehow be “handled differently””

 And indeed the “Online Patent User Agreement” is handling things differently.  I will be sure to blog any updates on this.

Video on Ethiopian Coffee TMs

For those of our visitors who have been following the evolution of the Ethiopian coffee trademarking intervention, I recently came across a very interesting documentary on the subject that looks at the history of coffee and its cultural significance in Ethiopia.  It contains interviews with many of the stakeholders in the TM project, including the Director of the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO). 

Scroll to the bottom of the page at:

On the same page you can also see the logos for the umbrella brand (Ethiopian Fine Coffees) and the sub-brands (Harar, Yirgacheffe, Sidamo).

For more background on this story see the 2007 case study published in the WIPO magazine.  This is, of course, not up to date but it does present a valuable overview of the project.  (Thanks to Shlomo Bachrach of for sending me the link.)

Post written by Peter Bloch