Category Archives: innovation

IP4inno training: free online sessions

The European Commission project IP4inno is offering a series of free Virtual Classroom Lessons (VCLs) during February and March.

These virtual sessions are tasters for training that will take place later in the  year.  More materials are available on their website or by topic below:

Monday 20 February 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 6B – Selling the message: how to convince SMEs that IP matters

Monday 27 February 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 5C – Business strategies for enforcing patents

Monday 5 March 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 6A – IP in the ICT sector

Monday 12 March 14:00 – 15:00 CET
Module 6A – Biotechnology patents

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Update on the Myriad (gene patent) case

There has been movement on an important gene patent case that we have followed in the past, the “Myriad” case. For more information take your pick from a range of posts on the subject on Patent Docs

PatentlyO summarised, “Guest Post: An Interesting Preview of Myriad?

“The Myriad case from the Southern District of New York, involving patent eligibility of DNA isolates derived from naturally occurring DNA, drew a great deal of attention. The court basically held such isolates ineligible for patent coverage as being too similar to the natural substances, and hence barred by the product-of-nature case law.”

This sounds like good news?  Well, even if it were as simple as that, it’s not over yet.  The case is now on appeal at the Federal Circuit. To be continued…

“Will patenting crops help feed the hungry?”

Will patenting crops help feed the hungry?” asked an article on The Conversation last week.

Interesting points made in the article include:

“In some cases, where new technologies are useful in the developed world as well as in developing nations, it may still be useful to patent those technologies. Such technologies can be licensed to seed companies in the developed world for commercial gain, whilst still providing the technologies “for free” elsewhere.”

“In the developing world, we have a policy of making technologies freely available, whether patented or not. Even if we have a patent on a gene, we can provide a no-cost license in developing countries; many large companies do the same”

“Without gene patents we would have less innovation, a solution that wouldn’t help food security at all.” (…)

Good to see solutions such as no-cost licences aired as ways to use IP in a development context.  There are alternative ways to work within the existing structures – and more discussion on these would be welcomed.

Thanks to our friends at Agrobiodiversity blog for sending the link.

Innovation in Africa

Article written by Stanley Kowalski from the  International Tech Transfer Institute, “Why America must advance innovation in Africa” tackles the issues behind why “An innovative African economy is in the best inter­ests of the U.S.

This is an interesting debate at a time when all public funding is being questioned.

Kowalski’s article says (emphasis added):

“The infrastructure, systems and resources that promote innovation will be the foundation for sustainable, knowl­edge-based economic development in Africa in the 21st century… Stulti­fied policy agendas must yield to dynam­ic strategic planning and coherent program implementation. Ad­ditional discussion and more money alone will not create a solution. In­stead, partnerships and programs must focus on promoting long-lasting outcomes, prioritizing capac­ity-building that generates a steady flow of essential innovations.

As Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and father of the Green Revolution, stated, “The destiny of world civilization depends upon providing a decent stan­dard of living for all mankind.” We must therefore stop viewing Africa as a chronic burden and start viewing it as the key partner in development for this century.” (…)

For full article download the PDF here

“Food Security Needs Sound IP”: IPRs critical to meet the demands of a growing population

This article in The Scientist “Opinion: Food Security Needs Sound IP”  starts with the all too familiar population projections for the coming years, and the subsequent pressure this will put on agriculture.  It goes on to point out that techniques and technologies will be required to meet this challenge – and that IPRs will need to be improved in order to promote the necessary technology transfer to areas most in need.

“The effective use of research and IPR can help drive delivery of innovative and productivity-increasing technologies crucial to agricultural and economic growth and achieving future needs for food security. The key is to match the proper IPR mechanisms with specific conditions, and to manage them effectively and efficiently to promote innovative research, technology transfer, wealth creation, and overall societal benefit.”

The authors outline some pathways for  supporting “the sensible introduction and diffusion of new agricultural practices and technologies” which include:

  • encouraging enforcement of national laws that comply with TRIPS
  • proactive access to modern biotech (including patent pools and open source licensing)
  • collaboration (including a supportive community of IPR practitioners!)
  • continued building of IP portfolios by national agricultural research institutions.

This is a great opinion piece, looking forward to reading more results from the studies from Washington State University in this area.

Google’s move into hardware – and tech patents, and an update on patent trolls

Google’s announcement that it will buy mobile phone manufacturer Motorola Mobility will turbocharge the proliferation of the Android OS.  But the $12.5 billion deal may be more about IP.  Unlike Apple, IBM – and Motorola, Google does not own a lot of patents.  But the acquisition includes a 17,000+ technology patent portfolio that Google will be able to use both defensively and offensively.

 American Public Media’s technology reporter Steve Henn:

“If you steal someone else’s idea, you can get taken to court and you’re supposed to pay for it. But lots of software developers believe the U.S. patent system — especially when it comes to software — is just broken. It’s a total mess. There are literally thousands of patents issued for the same ideas. You know, for example, just in the last few years, Amazon was awarded a patent for creating social networks…..

….So Google, Apple, Microsoft have all gone out shopping, buying up thousands and thousands of patents. Most analysts believe it’s largely for the purpose of suing each other”

High tech players regularly game the patent system.  So Google will now have substantial leverage (and probably some trump cards) if and when sued by another player for patent infringement. You can read, or listen to, the story “Why Google wants to buy Motorola Mobility.” And make sure to read the comments!

Relevant to this discussion, I added a comment, by way of a “P.S.”, to my recent post on patent trolls.  My concern was that non-operating entities (NPEs) would start to acquire agricultural patents and expose development projects to this kind of “gaming the system”.  I subsequently visited the web site of a leading NPE, ‘Intellectual Ventures’ and discovered that they already have a portfolio of agricultural IP (emphasis added):

“Invention Portfolio: Broad Technology Market Coverage: Agriculture, automotive, communications….”

 Post written by Peter Bloch

AGRA seedco grantee featured on BBC TV news

The Faso Kabo Seed Company, Bamako, Mali, has aggressively promoted improved seed provided by the West Africa Seed Alliance to farmers in Mali and beyond.  The innovative nature of the venture scored an AGRA grant for the owner, Maimouna Coulibaly in 2009.

You can watch Komla Dumor’s interview, which focuses on an improved, disease-resistant tomato variety, with Madame Coulibaly at “Planting seeds of success in Mali” and read a “success story” featuring the seed company “Finding Hope in Farming (Mali)

Access to improved seed – or the lack thereof – continues to be a major factor in low agricultural ouput across Sub-Saharan Africa.  In this case, however, the fruits of agricultural research are reaching small-holder farmers.

Post written by Peter Bloch