Tag Archives: market development

Branding stories; WIPO new online brand-search tool and Coca Cola

WIPO have launched another new tool this month.  See “WIPO Launches New On-Line Tool to Facilitate Brand Searches“. From their press release:

“A new on-line tool launched by WIPO … will make it easier to search over 640,000 records relating to internationally protected trademarks, appellations of origin and armorial bearings, flags and other state emblems as well as the names, abbreviations and emblems of intergovernmental organizations. The Global Brand Database allows free of charge, simultaneous brand-related searches across multiple collections.”

Thanks to WIPO for another free resource.  It is part of WIPO Gold, a “free public resource which provides a one-stop gateway to WIPO’s global collections of searchable IP data”

And the Coca Cola reference?  Well, whilst on the subject of brands, I was reading the Intellectual Asset Management blog.  They posted an item: “The Coca-Cola brand suffers a sharp fall in value as Google hits number one

Love it or loathe it, no matter where in the world you are, the chances of finding Coca Cola are pretty high.  It was interesting to read therefore that

“for the first time [Coca Cola] finds itself outside the list of the world’s top 10 most valuable brands, according to the annual Brand Finance 500 study”

The article concludes:

“…although there is a lot more to brands than trademarks, it does means that if you are working in-house as a trademark operator, the job that you are doing is absolutely vital to the maintenance (as well as the creation, of course) of profoundly important assets. I am sure that this is not huge news to the trademark practitioners reading this blog, but I wonder how many other people appreciate it. My suspicion is that it is not as many as should be the case.”

Not to be confused with corporate social responsibility; “For Pepsi, a business decision with social benefit”

A New York Times article entitled, “For Pepsi, a business decision with social benefit” told the story of a new venture involving Mexican farmers selling their crops to PepsiCo. 

 “PepsiCo’s work with the corn farmers reflects a relatively new approach by corporations trying to maintain a business edge while helping out small communities and farmers… The social benefits of the corn program are obvious in higher incomes that have improved nutritional and educational standards among the participating farmers, … but PepsiCo insists those benefits are ancillary to the business rationale for the program”

The article then goes on to list some other examples of creative business models that are able to satisfy the “triple bottom line” – interestingly even with products that are “profit-neutral” but that provide valuable intelligence about new and emerging markets.

The article made me smile quoting a spokesman from Dalberg Global Development Advisors who talked about corporate social responsibility (CSR) being “largely nonsense”.  Agreed — business models need to be a lot cleverer than relying on corporate consciousness to satisfy the complex goals of development.  This article highlighted another example of out-to-box thinking in ag development.

I sent the post to Peter Bloch to see what he thought and he said:

“Renowned economist Michael Porter participated in one of the main panel discussions at the World Economic Forum along with the CEOs of PepsiCo and Nestle.  Porter spoke out against Fair Trade.  His rationale was that Fair Trade is/was driven by a perceived need to pay small holder farmers a living wage irrespective of their efficiency.  This approach appealed to corporate CSR managers.  Porter described Nestle’s approach: Why is the small farmer poor?  Because he cannot grow enough (poor inputs, no mechanization) and the quality is poor.  So we will help him to grow more, higher quality food which we will buy at market prices.

This takes developing country poverty alleviation out of the Corporate Social Responsibility department into the business mainstream, and the approach – developing market-driven value chains – is consistent with the latest thinking at USAID and other donors.

(Thanks to Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending me the original NYT 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 Businessweek.com “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

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: https://casipblog.wordpress.com/?s=plumpy

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. https://casipblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/patent-user-agreement-plumpynut.pdf

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.

Technology transfer in sub-Saharan Africa, IPRs, development and the WIPO Agenda

I should have referenced this item some months ago, but it slipped my attention when it was published back in August on IP Watch.  (I think I was probably off on holiday!)  “The Relationship Between IP, Technology Transfer, and Development“.  Today I spotted the item cross posted on other blogs (thanks CTA and Zunia!)

The author, Cheikh Kane writes:

“In order to better understand the link between intellectual property rights, technology transfer and development, an analysis was recently conducted of the expectations of developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, of technology transfer.”

Interestingly he notes:

“The analysis shows that in order to foster development through technology, it is necessary to put into place an efficient and flexible intellectual property rights system and to promote local innovation.”

I wasn’t able to find the text of the analysis he spoke about, possibly it was in French originally?  If anyone has the link I would be grateful if they could add it to the comments section.

For more info on the WIPO Development agenda visit “Development Agenda for WIPO“.  Including details of the 45 adopted recommendations.

The author sums up by saying:

“The adoption of a Development Agenda by WIPO has to integrate the notion that intellectual property should serve first and foremost the promotion and protection of local innovation. The international intellectual property system as it is devised is not doing enough to support local inventiveness.”

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)

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:


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

Post-harvest loss, innovation and IP

Anyone who has worked in Sub-Saharan Africa will be aware that post-harvest storage losses account for as much as 35% of output.  Eliminating such losses results in an immediate effective increase in output of up to 40%.  We described one of several simple solutions for cowpea at https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2009/10/12/post-harvest-food-loss-wasa-the-purdue-method/

At the request of CIMMYT, CAS-IP asked me to review CIMMYT’s grain storage silo projects in Malawi and Kenya, and I met with farmers, institutional users and silo fabricators.  With years of experience in Mexico and Central America, CIMMYT had developed a technology that was appropriate for grain storage in developing countries.  This included silo design and material specification, and a training program to ensure that artisan metalworkers could both construct the silos to specification and train farmers on how to use them.

Small holder farmer Nancy Njeri (right), Kiritiri, Kenya with grain storage silo. Photo by Peter Bloch

CIMMYT’s concern was that untrained fabricators might offer inferior silos to farmers; that such silos could be ineffective, and that the reputation of the initiative would suffer as a result.  If this were to happen, uptake would be negatively affected.

Three 1800kg silos owned by the Kiritiri Producer Marketing Group. Photo by Peter Bloch

Discussions with the various actors in the value chain suggested a simple strategy.  The fabricators learned, as an integral part of their training, that quality and customer service were critical success factors.  So, if the fabricators in each country joined together to set up a Fabricator Trade Association (FTA), they could jointly apply for a trademark that could be used to identify the “approved” silos.

Just as community enforcement of a brand played an important role in the development of the Malawi Seed Alliance, it seemed highly likely that in these small tightly-knit rural farming communities the FTA would quickly find out if any non-members (untrained fabricators) were producing counterfeit silos.  Moreover, farmers, institutions and producer marketing groups I spoke to were very happy with the silos they had acquired and this suggests that community support for the status quo (buy your silo from an FTA member) would be shared at the grassroots as farmers discussed the investment among themselves.

For more information on this very simple yet innovative intervention, there are numerous online references including:



Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Plumpy’nut in the New York Times & Huffington Post

The New York Times just published an in-depth story on RUTFs.  Andrew Rice’s story provides a historical perspective and looks at the dramatic impact these products have had on humanitarian assistance.  He also examines the history of the invention, its eventual ownership by Nutriset and the patent dispute.  To read the story visit: “The Peanut Solution

 Here are a few excerpts that relate to our previous posts on the subject, “Plumpynut legal battle and the idea of global responsibility licencing” and “IPRs needn’t be a barrier to development; the plumpy’nut case


“American food aid must comply with stringent regulations meant to encourage domestic procurement…  

The patent has since been registered in 38 countries, including much of Africa….

Nutriset’s critics say that…the Plumpy’nut patent is so broad as to encompass just about any kind of nut-based nutritional paste. “There are other people that would like to enter into the business,” Ben Tabatchnick, who runs a New Jersey-based kosher soup company, said. “But everybody is afraid of being sued.””

Then, in response to this posting, an article appeared on the Huffington Post written by Jeffrey Sachs, Jessica Fanzo (a nutritionist at Bioversity International) and Sonia Sachs, entitled “Saying “Nuts” to Hunger”.  This provided some very interesting additions to the debate regarding the type of hunger that Plumpy’nut addresses.  There were also some interesting comments relating to the IP aspects of the case.  Firstly:

 “…it is absurd to think that a patent should legitimately give a monopoly right to use a fortified peanut-paste to fight acute hunger. The ingredients are simple: peanut paste, vegetable oil, powdered milk, powdered sugar, vitamins, and minerals. The nutritional values of peanuts and the other ingredients have been known for ages, and only the worst misuse of patent law would grant a broad monopoly claim to such knowledge”

 Well said! And secondly:

 “…it is a standard solution of global intellectual property law that urgent public health needs supersede patent rights. Poor countries should exercise their full right of “compulsory licensing” and other legal protections to produce or to import urgently needed low-cost nutritional supplementation in the face of famines, just as they do to obtain low-cost AIDS medicines.”

I wanted to look a little deeper into this second point.  Of course, not everyone wants to know the ins and outs of the IP component, but that is what we at CAS-IP enjoy most!!  The global intellectual property law referred to in the article is, presumably, the TRIPS agreement.  I am not a lawyer and therefore I am not familiar with the nuances of TRIPS; however, my understanding is that the “compulsory licensing” of TRIPS (an international agreement) requires definition of an emergency as determined by judiciary (at the national level), adding a level of complexity.  The agreement in fact doesn’t mention “compulsory licensing” outright, rather “other use without authorization of the right holder” (see article 31)

The WTO site goes on to explain:

 “Compulsory licensing is only part of this since “other use” includes use by governments for their own purposes.  Compulsory licensing and government use of a patent without the authorization of its owner can only be done under a number of conditions aimed at protecting the legitimate interests of the patent holder.”

This includes remuneration, incidentally!  So, it is an option, but certainly not an immediate one, and not one without cost!  I haven’t had the time to research the HIV/pharmaceutical examples as cases, but it would be very interesting to know more about these to draw on any lessons learned for agriculture.

 (Thanks to Peter Bloch for his contributions to this post)

Cultural Capitalism

This talk is slightly unnerving for those of us who might like to think of themselves as “doing their bit”.  It’s a short animation entitled, “RSA Animate – First as Tragedy, Then as Farce” which appeared on the Andrew Sullivan blog (thanks for sending me the link Victoria)

 Basically the speaker (Philosopher Slavoj Zizek) investigates a new form of capitalism that he says has emerged.  “Cultural capitalism, today’s form of capitalism”.  It really is a thought provoking 10minutes touching on issues surrounding Fair-trade, ethical shopping (he used the example of Starbucks coffee and the complex notions the consumer is “buying into”)

photo by Karine Malgrand for CAS-IP

Rita Agboh-Noameshie from AfricaRice and Jonathan Rosenthal from Just Works Consulting at the NPI meeting 2010. Photo by Karine Malgrand for CAS-IP

 The discussion was not dissimilar to the roundtable we held at the last National Partner’s Initiative meeting in Washington entitled “Branding and Market Development” (visit link for handout from this session).  Jonathan Rosenthal from Just Works Consulting who was part of the panel said the following of Fair-trade today:

 “Fair-trade started up as how to do trade better and power was not talked about.  Now that huge companies are on board some think this is success but others view it as failure…  Now the producers do have some amount of power but it’s still largely concentrated in the north.  Some feel the objective is to work out new models of trade where others are simply looking at improving business. There is lot of turbulence…

 …meanwhile, at the producer end, certification, that used to be free, costs more and more money and has more and more complexity and, thus costs. In addition, they have surprise inspections now–at producers’ cost. And, fair trade prices haven’t kept up with inflation so fair trade is harder to comply with and delivers less benefits over time. The challenge for producers, also, is what’s next? Where do we go from here?”

 Indeed, where do we go from here?  I asked Peter Bloch what he thought given his interest in market development:

  “Zizek is compelling, but let’s remember that he IS a philosopher.  He is simply challenging us to develop better solutions.  How might this apply to agricultural development?  One of the threads of this blog – since it started – has been innovation.  We’ve provided dozen of examples of innovations in a variety of sectors.  The innovation itself is rarely the issue – what we are interested in looking at is how some people can “connect the dots”, and what the final picture looks like.  If we can do this as we design and implement interventions we will, inevitably, be more effective.”