Tag Archives: patents

“China’s agricultural patents on the rise”

Last month, the SciDevNet posted an article highlighting the rise in patent applications for agricultural innovations in China.  Read the full article “China’s agricultural patents on the rise“.

The article quotes authoritative sources bringing to light statistical data that indicates strong innovation trends in China, despite the world financial crisis.  However, the same article also points out the narrow geographical scope of the agricultural patenting (i.e very few patent applications are filed outside of China) and the possible “takeover” of the Chinese agricultural patent market by the foreign companies.  A leading researcher from CCIPA, Dr Song Min, is quoted by SciDevNet to highlight a lack of awareness of IPRs in the agricultural sector in China and the lack of IP policies at the national level.

CCIPA, as represented by Dr Song Min, has been an excellent partner for CAS-IP in the Asian region.  The representatives (Lu Xin, Dr Song Min, Li Zheng) from CCIPA have repeatedly attended the NPI Initiative and are currently finalizing the case study sponsored by CAS-IP, on “Plant Variety Protection System in China: Achievements, Influences and Challenges”.  (Visit this CAS-IP link for more case studies)

Given the well-established reputation of CCIPA and the close partnership between CAS-IP and CCIPA, it seem important that CAS would turn to CCIPA experts, in particular to Dr Song Min, to get a deeper outlook on the ongoing patenting trends, as it has been reported by the Sci Dev.  Dr Song Min kindly provided the following comment:

“In recent years China has witnessed a huge rise of domestic agricultural patent applications. However, the vast majority of them were just filed in China. According to statistics, so far the amount of patent cooperation treaty (PCT) applications for agricultural innovations is 334 which only make up 1.2 percent of total domestic agriculture-related invention patents. Therefore, China’s international applications in the field of agriculture need to be further reinforced.

Basically, obtaining broad regional or worldwide protection for their core inventions is a very critical (crucial) intellectual Property (IP) strategy adopted by many patent holders particularly those giant international companies. Our survey data shows that Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto have filed 1913, 717 and 413 PCT agricultural patents respectively, moreover all their applications are desired in many countries. Among all agricultural patent applications in China, it’s found that invention patents granted to foreign applicants account for 61.7%. The top five foreign applicants are Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, DuPont Pionner and Monsanto respectively. In their applications, the important technologies of crop protection, genes and recombinant DNA etc. are most claimed.

Correspondingly, China should begin to broaden their narrow country coverage especially for excellent agricultural technologies; otherwise a number of core innovations will be completely besieged by foreign patents. Taking insecticidal crystal protein as example, the average family size of China’s patents is merely 1.7 but similar patent families from US have more than 10 applications. In our opinion, such gap is mainly due to China’s holders’ being not familiar with PCT system and the high cost of filing patent applications globally. “

Post written by Irina Curca, Programme Assistant to CAS-IP

USPTO speeds review of green patents

The Register reports that:

“The US Patent and Trademark Office said Monday that it’s launching a test program that will greatly speed the review of “green” technology patents.”

The test program looks like a great idea, but clearly has limitations. USPTO will likely be inundated by fast track requests for applications which are not “green”.  And who will decide which applications get to jump the line?

Read the story at:

And my old favorite, NPRs Marketplace, has a discussion with Aaron McGushion, an inventor:

“MCGUSHION: So imagine they (GE) have 500 applications pending right now. I would imagine that they’d want to put all of them in this program in order to get their patents issued very quickly.”

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Gene Patenting killing health research?

Intellectual Property Watch has been able to see the first draft of the report that the US Health and Human Resources Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics has produced, and has rightly commented on it. The report questions the benefits of patenting genes in the development of research and states that:

“although patents offer an incentive to companies to conduct research and develop genetic diagnostics, exclusive rights are not needed to advance the development of most genetic tests.”

The critic goes further and questions whether patented genes and thus the grant of monopoly in a specific area stiffen competition and lower general quality. Tom Dilenge, general counsel and vice president for legal and intellectual property at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (“BIO”), spoke in defense claiming that what makes research and development possible is the patenting system.
I agree with the Advisory Committee that US patent system should include and apply extensively an exemption from liability for infringement of gene patents when the patented gene is used for patient care purposes. The world of biotechnology has developed too fast and proprietorship over genes and their modifications are raising many questions and concerns. If you are interested in following this debate, you can find more information following this link http://oba.od.nih.gov/SACGHS/

Post written by Francesca Re Manning, consultant to CAS-IP

The problem with the patent system; too many lawyers and not enough inventors?

In an article about the Peer-to-Patent programme“too many lawyers and not enough inventors” was one of the criticisms of the current US patent system (dailyherald.com story link above).  Unfortunately, and jokes aside, that’s not the only criticism.  An overwhelmed system, backlogs of applications as well as changes in pace of technology are some of the reasons contributing to an increase in poor quality patents.  And poor quality patents means more time spent in infringement litigation, which nobody wants (apart from the lawyers perhaps!).  The article outlines some of the opinions for and against the Peer-to-Patent programme, and some of the history and reasoning that lead to its launch.  It could spell an important change in the way patents are issued, and more importantly to the CGIAR, how prior art is identified.

Patents that can be (in effect) public goods

This article is an update on the Eco-Patent Commons initiative.  Less than a year since its launch this project seems to be gaining momentum.  Two of the most recent pledged patents mentioned in the article relevant to our field are:

“A cutting edge, Xerox technology that significantly reduces the time and cost of removing hazardous waste from water and soil;
A technology developed by DuPont that converts certain non-recyclable plastics into beneficial fertilizer;”

A while back when I first blogged something about the Eco-patent commons, I saw that the commons has the following ‘rule’. 

“Members of the Eco-Patent Commons (known as “pledgers”) sign a nonassert pledge promising not to enforce the donated patents against those who use the patented technology to achieve an environmentally beneficial result (known as “implementers”).”

So, it works in a HUL-kind-of-way in that “implementers” have special licence to use the patent as they are achieving an environmentally beneficial result.  Except that licence is automatic, and the onus is on the rights holder to enforce – the upside to this being small business on the ground can go ahead and use the technologies without having to negotiate licensing terms.  Sounds sensible?!

Prior to making this post I sent the draft to my colleague Guat Hong Teh, the CAS-IP, IP Specialist, to ask what she thought about it.  She wrote:

“I had a quick glance at the website of the WBCSD – fascinating indeed! I think I have a rather different perspective from you in terms of how I see this piece of news. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this was:
How can we (in the public sector/the CGIAR) further encourage PPPs in agriculture/development-related projects through mechanisms such as corporate social responsibility and other models that would work for businesses to engage in our activities in the public sector? In recent years we have seen technology owners to be more active in creating “open’s” or “commons”, licensing innovations broadly for development purposes/for use in developing countries (such as through HULs), and putting forward “non-assert clauses” such as in the particular instance. These are all different creative ways used by IP owners to carve out exceptions to their rights, over and above those granted under the law.  Also, what is interesting about this news is the fact that technologies can sometimes (or even often times?), be applied across different disciplines. Are we in the public sector harnessing these existing innovations for the benefit of the poor engaging in agriculture?”

Patenting activity and international policy debate in lifesciences


This is an article from a recent WIPO magazine.  What the article says is that the patent sytem can provide key indicators for policy makers by looking questions such as:

“How much of the rice genome has been patented? By whom? What is the practical impact of this for farmers, breeders and agricultural researchers? What is the geographical coverage of patents on key technologies …. for plant biotechnology, … where is technology already in the public domain? What technological and commercial opportunities do these offer developing countries? What are the implications for multilateral agreements in the fields of health, plant genetic resources and the environment?”

Specifially relating to agricultural biotech the following was of interest:
“Working with the FAO, an expert team using inputs from India, Brazil, Europe and North America developed an overview of patent activities on gene promoters – key tools used in agricultural biotechnology. The landscaping contrasts the different technological and commercial patterns developed around several key food crops – soybeans, maize, potato and rice. This is intended to guide policymakers implementing the international system for benefit sharing resulting from the use of plant genetic resources in developing new agricultural products.”

Of course, the patent system is a complicated and constantly moving target.  However, this WIPO article suggests that progress is being made to mine this data to enhance policy debates.  The information is there, it was always an objective of the patent system to exchange this knowledge – now, with online access the focus is on how to process and use this distillation of research results!