Tag Archives: NPI

IPRs in public research; strategies to address protection of the public good

Since 2007 as part of the DGIS funded National Partners Initiative, CAS-IP commissioned various case studies – results of which can be downloaded here. Currently in the pipeline to be finalised are another seven case studies from Thailand, Philippines, China, Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia and Syria.

Recently our colleague in Nigeria, Ms C. H. Abo from the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) sent me some information about how she used her draft case study as a starting point for holding a national workshop on the subject of IP, which took place at the end of last year. Congratulations to Ms. Catherine Abo for this initiative and for the interest she leveraged!


The following was taken from the welcome address by the Executive Director of NCRI, Dr. A.A. Ochigbo.  He said (emphasis my own):

“Although, the extension of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to public research may seem to be in conflict with the traditional role of public good which the public research institutes traditionally stand for, it is increasingly perceived as a strategy to address the perceived needs of public research and the protection of the public good

Some photos from the conference:

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.

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.”

Database of IP Practitioners in emerging and developing economies

As you may already know, CAS-IP facilitates a community of IP practitioners called the National Partners Initiative, the NPI.  Started in May 2007, the community consists of approximately 45 IP/TT practitioners, across many countries and regions, working together in a sustained manner to improve their individual skills and institutional capacities. The result is recognition and confidence that developing country IP professionals can serve the needs of agricultural institutions. This initiative provides a forum for exchange of IP practices, and stimulates the essential on-the-ground capacity and knowledge of Intellectual Property Management, Technology Transfer and IP issues. 

One of early start initiatives of the NPI was to create a database of IP practitioners in each of the NPI countries. The objective was to develop a consolidated resource of all the component parties of IP practice. This would include researchers, legal personnel, tech transfer and technology managers, farmers’ groups and civil organizations involved in innovation cycles.  Examples of contacts on the lists would be persons with expertise in contract drafting and negotiation, experience in application for trademarks in India, experience with Plant Variety Protection in Tanzania, etc. 

On an ongoing basis all members are encouraged to prepare and continually update this list.  The exercise has proved very useful, not only as a shared resource but also to those who have now taken the time to compile the list for their own country. 

photo by Shawn Landersz for CAS-IP
Dr Kalpana Sastry (NAARM) & Dr. Marilyn M. Belarmino (AVRDC) at NPI Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., June 2010

 The experience of one of the NPI partners, Dr Kalpana Sastry of NAARM, India indicates the utility of this tool in her office. Since its creation in 2007 she has used this ready reckoner database of practitioners of IP and technology management to:

  1.  identify relevant faculty and clientele for awareness programmes
  2. identify the specific areas for capacity building programmes
  3. engage the faculty in IP education programmes
  4. identify summer internship locations for students
  5. locate probable employers for graduating students
  6. collaborate in research proposals

The members of the NPI have unique networks of IP practitioners in developing or emerging economies.  The lists so far compiled are available for use by all the NPI members on our shared space.  Possible extended users of the data could include organisations seeking to commercialise an agricultural product in one of the participating countries, or donors/project managers seeking partners for advocacy to explore the use of IP tools such as trademarks, market segmentation, branding, as a means of creating more value for producers, especially small holder farmers and those that farm marginal areas.  For privacy reasons we cannot share the lists with external parties, however, we could arrange for information to be disseminated on a case-by-case basis.   

(Co-written by Kalpana Sastry, NAARM)    

IP in agricultural development; impressions from a community of practice

I wanted to share for this blog some impressions of the NPI from the NPI members themselves.  This project really is IP in action in the agricultural development arena!  As you may have read during June (see this collection of posts) the NPI met for its Annual Meeting in Washington DC. 

Personally I always experience not just one, but several ‘moments of clarity’ during these meetings.  Our discussions around some of the nuances of IP management in agricultural development come into focus with the case studies and personal experiences of the group.  And, the dynamic of the group is one of sharing and support – it’s as if experiences of members are somehow ‘peer reviewed’ giving individual members the confidence and authority to speak out within their own institutions. 

When starting out with this project in 2007 we hoped that over time the group would perform the functions of an international professional society, and in our fourth year this has been realised. 

But don’t just take my word for it – here are some impressions from the members about what the NPI does for them. 

An extra special thanks to R.Raman from AfricaRice for capturing these videos

Licencing for development, FTO & questions for the future; Day #5 of the NPI meeting

Friday morning and it was another lovely day in DC (lovely to a person who is used to living in a very cloudy city).  Today is our last day (of course we can have meetings on own tomorrow) so let us say it is the last official day of our Annual NPI meeting.

We don’t know yet where destiny might take us from know but we are very confident the strong bonds built during the last three years will allow us to continue seeing each other and working together for many years.

So, we started today discussing a very interesting case (Mama Cares et al v. NutriSet) presented by Robert Chiavello and Kirby Drake from Fulbright (the legal firm working pro bono on the case).  Discussion surrounded patenting and licensing conditions/terms for therapeutic foods such as plumpy’nut (which is a peanut-based food for use in famine relief at the centre of the debate, see recent CAS-IP blog post). The dispute is mainly related to NutriSet’s philosophy of licensing (licensing the production to African partners for development) and patent infringement (it is not clear if Mama Cares et al will be free of any suits if producing a similar product in the US).  We’ll have to wait and see how the case develops since we could say from a legal perspective, it has just started… (Note from Kay:we will write a separate post dealing with this issue shortly)

Then we had a great lecture given by Michael Gollin on Freedom to Operate. Key steps for accessing innovation strategically were given. You can always buy it, go around it or fight it… At the end of the day, IP does not have to always be an obstacle! Michael provided a very sophisticated diagram on accessing an outsider’s innovation when access is not readily available.  Lots of creative ways there for achieving our goals.  Afterwards, very interesting input was provided by Marc since he shared CIP’s experience on FTO on weevil resistant sweetpotato.  Thanks Marc!

Next, a panel integrated by Silvia, Carolina, Marc, Michael and Victoria shared more experiences on FTO and funding terms and conditions. It was pointed out by Silvia that it is essential to know (and read!!) all agreements related to technology transfer.  We can not assume that IP issues are well understood by all actors involved in a project.  Therefore, a good practice is to raise all IP issues from the very beginning.  Then, Carolina raised the issue that national organizations are susceptible to be refused to get material from companies even though IPRs are not granted in the country.  At this point, although there may be FTO, it might just as well not be applicable in reality.  Subsequently, Victoria mentioned that there are some specific circumstances or elements (such as immunities) that need to be taken into account to understand the whole context of every project.   Michael then mentioned that most of the time it is by making a cost/analysis assessment that the best way of proceeding can be determined. Questions and comments were posed later on regarding “fair use”, use of traditional knowledge and genetic resources for research, disclosure requirement in patenting processes and patent landscapes.

After healthy and not so healthy meals, we talked a bit about the NPI Future.  As the NPI has evolved into a strong community of practitioners, we are searching for a new host/coordinator.  Our own participation as members is required for funding raising and we are determined to do so (you can be sure of this Peter).

Our day ended with a reception where we were able to talk to some of pro bono lawyers.   Well guys, let me quote Karine and say “Our work is not over, keep up with your workplans and see you all in six months!!”

Hasta la vista!!!

Post written by Pamela Ferro, National Partner in Peru (ESTUDIO GRAU)

USPTO, prior art & IP protection for plants in the US; Day #4 of the NPI meeting

The NPI week continued with a visit to the USPTO.  The building in itself started the day on an impressive note, as did the security system! The USPTO offices were built in 2005 and include five (5) buildings named in honour of important actors of patent history. 

The learning experience started at the Global Intellectual Property Academy with a general overview of the USPTOs history and function. We learned numerous interesting facts on the American history in general and on the subject of patents, i.e. that intellectual property goes back to the American Constitution written by the founding fathers.

We then spent some time with Mary Hale, supervisor in the electronic information centre, who took us through the prior art search systems. This presentation triggered many questions on the issue of the USPTO employees’ access to information and databases. Suggestions were then made by the participants concerning national databases that should be incorporated in the internet tools available to employees. It was obvious that it was crucial to them to avoid having the information on national resources overlooked in the research of prior art.

After lunch Anne Marie Grünberg, Supervisory Patent Examiner, presented “IP protection for plants in the US.” She took us through the three (3) types of protection available in the United Sates for plants: 1) the Plant Patent; 2) the Plant Variety Protection, and; 3) the Utility Patent. She then explained how and why these different protections are used. Anne Marie’s presentation and dynamism also sparked many questions from the NPI group. Questions were centered on the details of; whether it is common to apply for both a patent and PVP? (answer: in her experience, it was more common to apply for a plant utility patent and PVP) what does PVP offer that a utility patent does not? (answer: there are different advantages to these protections, for example, the scope of a utility patent can be broader, while it is less expensive in the long run to have PVP).  There was also discussion around the limitations to all these modes of protection, i.e. the farmers’ and breeders ‘exemption which does not exist under the Patent Act, while it is important in the PVPA. Personally, I was surprised to discover that research exemptions are absent from the US Patent Act, which makes the patent scope even larger in the United States. 

post written by Gabrielle Gagne, National Partner, Canada

Just to add, Hanumanth Rao had the opportunity to raise with the USPTO about the work that ICRISAT & CAS-IP have been working on with the EPO to have CGIAR materials included in their prior art searches.  See the information on the following link for more details of this: http://www.cas-ip.org/projects/cgiar-centre-publications-as-prior-art.  Minna Moezie, the Attorney-Advisor who led the day’s proceedings invited Hanumanth to contact her directly so they can consider the possibilities. — Kay Chapman


USDA & plant variety protection proceedures; Day #3 of the NPI meeting

Although the day started with a whimper it ended with a bang as NPI participants left fully charged with new ideas.

 The plan for the day was to visit USDA to learn about its plant variety protection procedures through a series of presentations by USDA staff. However, our visit got delayed by a couple of hours because of the lack of transport to reach the USDA campus from the metro station. Luckily after an hour or so, some of us got the bright idea of hiring taxis and it worked.   

At USDA we got a terrific welcome “à l’Americaine” with plenty of good cheer, warmth and food.  Overall the visit was a great learning experience for all NPI participants as the presentations provided a window into the world of USDA plant variety protection program, germplasm system, international partnership, and technology transfer, licensing and patenting.

The first presentation was on U.S. Plant Variety Protection Office by Janice M. Strachan, Senior Examinor, Plant Variety Protection Office. She walked us through the entire process of how a plant variety protection certificate is obtained based on the rigorous criteria of: new, uniform, stable and distinct. It was interesting to learn that the number of applications for certificates has gone up from about a 100 to 500 per year, and the main demand relates to corn varieties for biofuel. 

Peter Bretting, National Program Leader, USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Office of National Programs spoke on the USDA National Plant Germplasm System, which is one of the largest in the world holding about 534,000 samples of 13,400 plant species. Its Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) has now become a world reference.

Eileen Herrera, Deputy Director, USDA, ARS Office of International Research Programs made a presentation on Office of International Research Programs. She emphasized the similarities between CGIAR and the USDA ARS and highlighted the recent ARS-CGIAR Meeting to explore collaboration on how both the organizations can strategically address food security in the changing global agricultural research environment.

The ARS Office of Technology Transfer was introduced by Diana Tucker. The main functions of this department are marketing, patenting, and licensing as well as agreements such as MTA and confidentiality. The activities are conducted on the assumptions that IP protection is a necessary incentive for private investment in financially risky innovations and that the private sector delivery of products and services is often the most effective and efficient means of technology transfer.

Overall the presentations were clear and well-structured. The lively exchange of questions and answers following the presentations stimulated the discussions. As Lucas put it:

 “What USDA is doing in IP is very impressive and we have a lot to learn from them.”

Post written by Savitri Mohapatra, (NPI participant from AfricaRice)

Data Sharing to Market Development; Day #2 of the NPI meeting

Tuesday 15th June saw the second day of the 2010 Annual Meeting of the National Partners Initiative.  The day was dedicated to round table discussions.     

In the morning Victoria Henson-Apollonio and Francesca Re Manning of CAS-IP along with David Schindell from the Smithstonian Institution led a discussion on “Data Distribution and Use”.  This covered some of the issues relating to access, data release, attribution, data sharing, access and benefits, the CBD and the ITPGRFA.  The afternoon the session was on branding and market development with participation from; Karl Manders, President of Continental Enterprises, William Mansfield, Director of Intellectual Property for ABRO, and Jonathan Rosenthal from Just Works.  Peter Bloch who moderated the session said:

…all three panelists are leaders in their respective fields, and I felt that the input and feedback they provided was of real value.  And, if nothing else, Bill Mansfield provided some much-needed comic relief!  The takeaway for me personally was corroboration that community enforcement of informally held IP that I have been working on in Malawi is indeed a direction worth pursuing.  The panelists also planted an important idea – that the IP practices of the North are not necessarily all relevant to the South, and I hope that the NPI participants will carry this message home with them

 There was a bitter sweet ending to the day.  This summer Victoria Henson-Apollonio will be retiring.  In her honour, the NPI group made presentations traditional to their country of origin.  Victoria was draped with fabrics and given gifts from the four corners of the globe!  Victoria, we are all going to miss your energy and input into CAS-IP and the NPI when you leave!

Live From Washington DC: Day #1 of the Annual NPI Meeting

CAS-IP is in DC and we are hosting the 4th annual meeting of the National Partners Initiative  (the NPI). 

PIIPA is co-sponsoring the meeting, and Mark Davis, PIIPA President and Acting CEO welcomed the participants who are joining us from around the world.  Victoria Henson-Apollonio, Manager of CAS-IP talked about the future of the NPI as the DGIS funding to CAS-IP that has supported these activities expires at the end of 2010. There are exciting opportunities and we will report on the NPI’s new home when a final decision has been reached.

The morning was dedicated to discussing the workplans participants are engaged in throughout the year.  Outputs and experiences are shared with the group.  The afternoon was dedicated to presentations of the latest case studies from the group, for review and comments from peers.  Topics included “Dealing with problems related to the implementation of the plant variety protection act in Thailand”, “Plant variety protection system in China”, “Farming community registry as a farmers’ rights mechanism in the Philippines”, and “Audit  of KARI’s plant varieties/plant breeders rights”.  Drafts of these case studies will soon be available.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome all of the participants to the meeting.  I’m looking forward to what promises to be a productive and enjoyable week!  Our list of participants includes representation from the following organisations:  ICRISAT, IRRI, ILRI, CIP, AVRDC, AfricaRice (formerly WARDA), CIAT, Bioversity, CIMMYT, IWMI, Moi University (Eldoret), KARI, NABDA, NCRI, Plant Variety Protection Division (Thailand), NAARM, WSU, ESTUDIO GRAU, Division for Plant Variety Protection (P.R.China), FORDA, MARDI, INERA, PROINNOVA, Copyright Office (Burkina Faso), Plant Variety Protection Office (Phillipines), LESI, PIIPA,  AATF and of course CAS-IP. 

It’s an impossibly long list of acronyms I know… I am hoping someone can help me out with links for all these organisations in the comments section!

(thanks to Peter Bloch     for his input into this post)