Category Archives: Uncategorized

Request for input; Demarcation and Food Security

A colleague from Moi University, Josam Musambayi contacted me recently with an outline for a paper he is writing on demarcation.  Whilst demarcation of land is not a topic we would normally cover on this blog, the issue may be of general interest to this community, and has legal implications.  

Does anyone have any suggestions or advice for Josam in his work?  You can download his draft paper here.  He says:

“uncontrolled subdivision of agricultural land …[could increase the] likelihood of food insecurity

..the purpose of my paper is to gather information for use by the planners and government policy makers, especially in Africa , on the food security situation… the population explosion in Africa is placing a huge demand on governments for food provision , climate change notwithstanding.  Contribution from scholars is welcome so that we can share this information with others.

Please contact Josam directly if you have any comments on this topic – his contact details are in the draft paper.

US Patent Reform: America Invents Act Passed

On September 16th President Obama signed The America Invents Act, introducing some much-needed reforms to the American IP regime.

Key components include:

• Reduction of patent backlog
The law allocates additional resources to the USPTO, which will, hopefully, enable the agency to reduce the current backlog of 680,000 applications.

• Reducing litigation
The USPTO will now offer patent owners new tools, which lawmakers believe will enable many patent disputes to be resolved without the need for expensive litigation.

• Increasing patent quality
Additional resources, tools and new management processes will be allocated to ensure that patents granted are of higher quality, i.e., less likely to be overturned or disputed.

• New fast-track option for Patent Processing
If you can afford to take advantage of this new option, and meet the criteria, wait time can be reduced from 3+ years to 12 months.

• Better protection abroad
Harmonizing the US patent process with legislation in other countries will, in principle, provide more efficient and predictable protection for American patent owners abroad.

The overall goal of the legislation is to stimulate innovation by making the patent process more efficient and effective.

Business Week describes the legislation as “The Biggest Overhaul of the Patent System Since 1952” and quotes Senator Patrick Leahy, who co-sponsored the measure:

The America Invents Act will ensure that inventors large and small maintain the competitive edge that has put America at the pinnacle of global innovation.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the legislation is that it embraces first-to-file for new patents, as opposed to the current first-to-invent standard. For one of many perspectives on this, read Paul Kedrosky’s blog post, Patent Reform: Romance vs Pragmatism.  Only time will tell just what the impact of this reform will be, but several commentators observed that the Act does little or nothing to curb the activities of so-called patent trolls.

This important piece of legislation contains a number of additional provisions. More information can be found at the USPTO web site and at IP Watch.

Post written by Peter Bloch

Collaborative research

Bengt Järrehult, Director of Innovation and Knowledge Management at the SCA (Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget), writes:

 “One of the major findings in mankind’s history is realizing the value of working together. Without it we would have starved to death about 100 000 years ago because a single man going hunting is very inefficient (I know – I am a hunter). We have also seen a very strong correlation between the amount of innovations happening and the number of people who are interconnected in the society during the course of the years.”

You can read more at “Open Innovation: To Cooperate or Collaborate –That is the Question

This reminded me of a previous post on collaborative research “ResearchGATE and Its Savvy Use of the Web”  I revisited the ResearchGate site which has expanded significantly over the last 18 months, and now lists nineteen specialties under Agricultural Science, from Agricultural Economics through Irrigation and Water Management to Waste Management.  Researchers from all over the world have signed up.  According to the site, there are now over 1 million members involved in 24 disciplines.

Post written by Peter Bloch

See also “Open Innovation; how should we deal with the IP?

Reputation – the importance of this intangible asset

Further to the News of the World scandal[1]in the UK, Intellectual Asset Management blog ran a post about reputation, “Reputation – the most important intangible asset there is.”  They said:

 “Reputation is, of course, an intangible asset – one it is very difficult to measure, to manage and to protect. But just because it is difficult does not mean it should not be done. What has happened to the News of the World, and the knock-on effect this has had on News Corp, just goes to show the truth of that.

 …the fact is that without a reputation off which you can leverage strong brands that people want to buy into, the other intangibles, intellectual assets or intellectual property rights you own will be far less important than they could be.

This is as relevant in the public sector as it is in the private sector of course.  There are certainly parallel lessons to learn.

[1] For those who might not be familiar with the scandal, the BBC had extensive coverage.  For a summary see “Q&A: News of the World phone-hacking scandal


An inside scoop on technology patents

This American Life is one of Public Radio International’s most iconic, unusual and stimulating programs, and producer Ira Glass has turned his eye on a hotly debated aspect of the patent system – the acquisition and management of IP by non-operating entities (NPEs), often referred to as “patent trolls”.  You can listen to this fascinating and informative one-hour program HERE.

The program explains the origin of the term “troll” (the toy of an Intel lawyer’s young daughter); follows the trials and tribulations of several individual inventors (including Jeff Kelling of internet company Fototime), and interviews Nathan Myhrvold, the founder of Intellectual Ventures (IV), described by one patent lawyer as “a troll on steroids”.

Patent reform activist David Martin, CEO of M•CAM weighs in and demonstrates his DOORS analytic software to show that 30% of patents are worthless, often because they are not “novel” (e.g., patent 6,080,436 was granted in 2000 for “bread refreshing method”; that turns out to be toast!).  And for insight into one of IV’s many lawsuits (IV v. Hynix Semiconductor et al) you can download an M•CAM analysis (one of the Patently Obvious® series) HERE.

The program explains why the buying and selling of patents is likely to continue as a profitable and controversial business that affects the entire tech industry.  The targets of NPEs like IV, along with many observers, believe that the practices investigated in the program discourage innovation and impose a huge burden (the time and cost of litigation) on innovators, and especially on vulnerable tech start-ups.

IV claims to help inventors move their innovations into the market place.  But IV is not buying inventions; they are, for the most part, buying patents, many of which may belong in Martin’s 30%.  And while IV’s stated intention is to license these patents, they often sue without any attempt to negotiate a license; the threat of litigation can cower start-ups into paying royalties even when the outcome of an IV claim is uncertain. IV owns 35,000 patents and informants describe how the company effectively licenses their portfolio to third parties for use in quashing competition or for defensive purposes.

Last but not least, the $4.5 billion sale of Nortel’s patent portfolio that was acquired recently by a consortium including Apple and Microsoft for defensive purposes is discussed.

Complex?  Yes, very.  But listening to the entrepreneurs, inventors and lawyers who are interviewed on This American Life brings the subject into perspective.

Post written by Peter Bloch

Genetic resources and integrated seed sector development training

Wageningen is offering a programme during April/May 2012 on approaches in genetic resources conservation and use, and integrated seed sector development in the context of climate change.

The programme consists of two three-week courses offered in parallel sessions: (1) Genetic resource policies and genetic resource management strategies, and (2) Integrated and participatory approaches in agrobiodiversity management. Additionally, one-day workshops on special topics are organised in which the participants of both courses will join.

The brochure goes on to explain:

 “The objective of the [first]… course of the training programme is to enhance participants’ capabilities to more effectively manage plant genetic resource conservation programmes and to use various strategies to support the sustainable use of genetic resources, whilst the objective of the other course is to strengthen participants’ knowledge and capabilities to support the concept of integrated seed sector development. In both courses relevant policies receive special attention…

…the training programme is designed for mid-career professionals working in genetic resource conservation or seed sector development, from policy, research, education or development arenas”

For more details visit their website HERE.  Also, see the course brochure for details of fellowships available via the Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP) for nationals of certain countries.

Break for Easter…

Taking an Easter break, will be back next week.