Tag Archives: plumpy nut

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)

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)