Thursday, 16 October 2014

Upcoming Events for Africa’s IP Gurus

Two IP events relevant to Africa recently wandered onto this Little Leo’s hunting grounds.  For those who have the inclination and ability to travel, these are worth checking out.

Uganda

Open Air booksNext Monday, 27th October, the Uganda Christian University and Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) as a participant in the Open AIR project are presenting a public lecture on Intellectual Property and Innovation in Africa

The program will feature world renowned experts and Open AIR researchers Dr. Jeremy de Beer and Dr. Chidi Oguamanam, both coming from the University of Ottawa in Canada.  Both are also contributors to the Open AIR books Innovation & Intellectual Porperty: Collaborating Dynamics in Africa and Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future, which were released last December at the Open Air conference in Cape Town. (Afro-IP posts on the conference here.)

The lecture is from 2pm – 4pm Monday in lecture room (M3) at Uganda Christian University Mukono.  If you are interested in attending, please RSVP with Ms. Primah Kwagala at kwagalap@gmail.com.  There is a book launch event the following day, 28 October at Protea Hotel Kampala from 9am – noon.  Tickets for the book launch are available through Eventbrite.

Geneva

WIPO, WHO and WTO are collaborating on a program covering Innovation and Access to Medical Technologies – Challenges and Opportunities for Middle-Income Countries on 5 November.  This all-day event (8:30am – 5pm) will cover plenty of hot topics, including Ebola, trends in medical technologies, and challenges in ensuring access to medical technologies.  Full pdf schedule here.

Since roughly half of the countries on the continent are classified as middle-income countries in some way (one list here), this program could be relevant to a number of Afro-IP readers.  It’s also nice to see the big organizations collaborating together to discuss important issues.  Registration is open until 3 November through the WTO site.

 

If any readers are able to attend either of these programs, we’d love to hear reports back about them.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Seychelles Industrial Property Act inching closer to mattering

Seychelles enacted a new Industrial Property Act about 6 months ago and it is now available for your perusal.  It is not yet in effect, though, so don’t start relying on it yet.  The new Act is available here in a delightfully nostalgic looking pdf. Not great for searching, but excellent for reminiscing about long hours in the library.  For those more interested in usability than nostalgia, the version submitted to WIPO is searchable.

The Act covers Patents, Utility Models, Industrial Designs, Integrated Circuits, Trademarks and Geographical Indications (combined in the same part), and Unfair Competition.  The Act includes enforcement provisions for both civil and criminal enforcement.  According to Inventa International, the new legislation is in preparation for Seychelles to join the WTO.  The purpose of the act certainly seems in line with the purpose of IP purported by TRIPS:

AN ACT to provide for the adequate protection and enforcement of industrial property rights in order to encourage local inventive and innovative activities, stimulate transfer of technology, promote foreign direct investment, create competitive business environment, discourage unfair practices, enhance free and fair practice and thereby foster socio economic development and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Here’s a great opportunity.  Many of the goals listed above are measureable.  Since the Act is not yet in effect, we could get some baseline numbers for current foreign direct investment amounts and number of existing technology transfer projects and compare those down the road at the 5, 10, 20, etc. -year points after the 2014 Act goes into effect.  Then we can analyze whether TRIPS-level IP laws really do increase all these things.

In the meantime, we’ll settle for covering some aspects of the new Act worth mentioning. 

Patents

Plants, micro-organisms and natural substances are not patentable; neither are business methods. The Act follows the first to file rule, however applicants who have already applied for a patent in a WTO member country can receive right of priority (See Sect. 13).  Patent terms are 20 years from date of filing and annual fees are due (yes, every year) to keep the patent valid.

The Act provides for compulsory patent licenses in the cases of public interest, non-practice (“insufficiently exploited in Seychelles…after a period of 4 years”), anti-competitive practices, abusive licensing, and needs of a subsequent patent. (Chapter 5.)

Industrial Designs

Industrial Design registrations are valid for 5 years with the possibility of 2 additional 5-year renewal terms.  The same compulsory licensing provisions for patents apply to Industrial Designs.  Changes in ownership must be registered in ordered to be enforced against third parties.

Trademarks

The Act provides for right of priority for trademark registrations, as with patents.  Three-dimensional marks can be registered, and there’s provisions for what to do when the mark cannot be visually perceived, which suggests that sound and scent marks may be registerable.  Trademark registrations are valid for an initial term of 10 years with renewals available at 7 year intervals.

Monday, 13 October 2014

IP and capacity-building: either/or or both/and?

"Formal IP System Does Not Fit Africa, LDCs Need Technological Capacity, Speakers Say", by Catherine Saez, was posted on Intellectual Property Watch last week. You can read it here.

This article summarises discussions by a panel addressing the relationship between intellectual property and innovation in Africa, in particular in the informal sector, which took place on the final day of the World Trade Organization Public Forum on 1 to 3 October.

Readers are invited to form their own opinions, in the unlikely event that they do not have their own already.  This blogger's position is that it's not an either-or issue. Africa needs both a formal IP system and more technology capacity-building because each enriches the other.  This blogger is also concerned at the ease with which Africa is at one moment treated as though it were a single homogenous and generally rather hopeless country and then, minutes later, described in terms of the vast diversity which makes it so impossible to generalise across its culturally, economically and politically separate regions.

Comments, anyone?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cape Verde’s New Home for IP

Merging existing government divisions into a single new entity is a daunting task.  New processes, new names, less faces, there’s a lot to consider.  Musings of what if’s have been heard before, “what if we combined office x and office y?” Inventa International brings us news of just such a merger already complete.  Cape Verde merged its Quality Management Institute and Intellectual Property Institute to form the (very merged sounding) Quality Management and Intellectual Property Institute (“IGQPI”).  The new IGQPI will handle all intellectual property maters.

This little Leo is interested to see how this merger might play out on the international stage.  The old Quality Management Institute was responsible for things outside of IP but definitely affected by it, such as energy sector development. With better integration between IP and development fields within the government, will Cape Verde discover a new balance between property rights and other rights?  Will IGQPI be more aware than other Copyright, Industrial Property or IP offices about all aspects of the interplay between IP and Innovation?  And if so, despite Cape Verde being a rather small country, will it be able to share its experiences with larger countries in the region and in international forums like WIPO?

Inventa International’s full release: http://www.inventa.com/news/cape_verde_new_institute_for_intellectual_property_and_quality_management_matters

IP policies in Africa no. 35: Mozambique

Mozambique has had a ten year IP Strategy (2008 - 2018) in place since 2008, which is available here.

The Strategy is informed by the following vision: 'The Mozambican government regards intellectual property as an instrument for stimulating and protecting creativity and innovation to promote the country’s economic, scientific, technological and cultural development'. Its overall goal is 'to create the basic preconditions for promoting creativity, the results of scientific and technological research and local innovative capacity, thereby furthering the use of the intellectual property system for the benefit of the scientific, technological, economic, cultural and social development of the country'. Well said, says this Leo.

Much thought has gone into formulating the Strategy as it draws from a multiplicity of other relevant documents, policies and programs, namely:
'the main national, regional and international instruments guiding Mozambique’s development, such as Agenda 2025, the Expanded Program for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA), the Government’s Five-Year Plan, the Millennium Development Goals, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the various policies and strategies of the relevant sectors in the sphere of intellectual property, in particular the Policy on Science and Technology, the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Industrial Policy and Strategy, the Rural Development Strategy, the Policy on Traditional Medicine, the Cultural Policy, and the Strategic Plan on Education and Culture'.

The contents of the Strategy are as follows:

  • Overview of Intellectual Property in Mozambique 
  • Importance of Intellectual Property
  • Vision and Goals  (see above)
  • Strategic Framework and Strategic Areas: These are well articulated and are quite detailed. They centre around the following seven areas:


  1. Dissemination of IP;
  2. Education and IP;
  3. Scientific and technological research;
  4. Innovation and competitiveness in industry;
  5. Traditional knowledge and biodiversity;
  6. Creativity and development of the cultural industry; and
  7. Administration of the intellectual property system.


The Strategy also consists of ANNEX II: Intellectual Property Action Plan which outlines 25 strategic goals to which short and medium term actions are assigned, as is a mid-term (2012) achievement target. Any planning pundit will agree that this is how one sets SMART goals. They are Specific, Measurable, Assignable or Achievable (depending on who you read), Realistic and Time-related.

This is an impressive effort from Mozambique which seems to be doing well as far as its IP environment is concerned. As Kingsley noted here, it also has a vibrant IP Office website and is providing regional IP leadership in the person of the former  Director-General of Mozambique's Industrial Property Institute (IPI) Mr Fernando Dos Santos who is the current Director-General of ARIPO.
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Recent Afro-IP posts on Mozambique
The Global Innovation Index: Ranking African countries since 2007..
Mozambique signs up for Berne at last!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

MARQUES reports on Africa

This blogger's attachment to European trade mark organisation MARQUES is well known and of some antiquity. He was therefore delighted to see that Mariëtte Du Plessis of the MARQUES Trade Mark Law and Practice Team has provided an updated report on IP developments in Africa. According to the HouseMARQUES e-newsletter:
Africa has seen what has been described as a "remarkable growth" since the mid-1990s, with 10 of the world's 11 fastest-growing economies by 2020 expected to emerge from the continent.

This has prompted greater concern among investors about protecting and commercialising their intellectual property in Africa. In a paper published on the Trade Mark Team's website, Mariëtte Du Plessis of Adams & Adams reviews recent developments in Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, South Sudan, São Tomè & Príncipe, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Tunisia.

She also provides an update on ARIPO and OAPI, the latter of which has confirmed its intention to join the Madrid Protocol.
If you click through to the Team's web page, you will find that the report is accessible to MARQUES members only. However, if you want sight of it you may find it worth contacting Mariëtte on a personal basis and asking there is any chance that you might get to see it -- particularly if you are with a firm or company that is contemplating joining MARQUES and would like to see the quality of its work.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Egypt, Oman sign patent pact

The latest Newsletter of NJQ & Associates reports that, on 13 September 2014, the Head of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding agreement with the Minister of Industry in Oman with respect to cooperation in the field of patents and other IP rights.

This memorandum looks forward to a degree of cooperation between the countries' respective patent offices, and the Egyptian Patent Office (EGPO) -- an accepted examination authority for PCT purposes -- will host researchers from the Oman Patent Office (OPTO) for training in substantive examination of patent applications in Oman. The EGPO will send examiners to the OPTO for training purposes and will also examine all pending patent applications pending in Oman.

Monday, 29 September 2014

New WIPO Senior Management team

Thanks to a post over at IPKat (here) which alerted this Leo to the approval of a new leadership team at WIPO to work with DG Gurry after he begins his new term on 1 October. The rest of his team will commence their terms on 1 December. They are:
Ms. Anne Leer (Norway), Deputy Director General, Culture and Creative Industries Sector.
Mr. Mario Matus (Chile), Deputy Director General, Development Sector.
Mr. John Sandage (United States of America), Deputy Director General, Patents and Technology Sector.
Ms. Binying Wang  (China), Deputy Director General, Brands and Designs Sector.
Mr. Minelik Getahun (Ethiopia), Assistant Director General, Global Issues Sector.
Mr. Naresh Prasad (India), Assistant Director General, Chief of Staff.
Mr. Ramanathan Ambi Sundaram (Sri Lanka), Assistant Director General, Administration and Management Sector.
Mr. Yoshiyuki Takagi (Japan), Assistant Director General, Global Infrastructure Sector.

For those who are wondering, the current Senior Management Team consists of
Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama (Nigeria), Deputy Director General, Development Sector
Mr. James Pooley (US), Deputy Director General, Innovation and Technology Sector
Ms. Binying Wang (China), Deputy Director General, Brands and Designs Sector
Mr. Christian Wichard (Germany), Deputy Director General, Global Issues Sector
Mr. Trevor C. Clarke (Barbados), Assistant Director General, Copyright
Mr. Ambi Sundaram (Sri Lanka), Assistant Director General, Administration and Management Sector
Mr. Yoshiyuki (Yo) Takagi (Japan), Assistant Director General, Global Infrastructure
Mr. Naresh Prasad (India), Chief of Staff


Ms Wang and Mr Takagi are the only incumbents who have retained their portfolios.
................
see WIPO's Press Statement here

Thursday, 25 September 2014

OAPI-SAIC: China strengthens ties with one of Africa's most prominent IP registries

This is the third of three reports by Aminou Ndala TITA based in Cameroon on developments at OAPI this month:

"Liu Yuting, Vice Minister of the State for Industry and Commerce of the People's Republic of China visited was in OAPI for a working visit from the 9th to 11th September 2014.

This visit which comes as a result of the cordial relationship that exists between the Chinese Ministry of Trade and Commerce and OAPI will end with the validation of the plan of action between both structures for the period 2014/2015.


The action plan includes a range of issues amongst others exchange of information, technical support, advocacy and training on various topics such as trademark examination, counterfeiting and several other themes. The publication of information on the respective websites of each organization is also on the plan.

Another high point on the visit was the meeting between the Chinese Minister and his Cameroon counterpart. The opportunity was given to Liu Yuting and the large delegation of five employees who accompanied him, to exchange views on China-Cameroon relations in the fields of industry and commerce.  Aspects such penetration strategy of the international market, China's expertise in standard and quality, support for industrialization and processing of local raw materials locally, are key areas where cooperation with China must be strengthened. Cameroon home country for all members of the OAPI has benefited from the forty-eight hour visit of the Chinese authority.

OAPI has every intention of boosting its volume of application by adhering to international treaties and conventions."

You can follow Aminou on the twitter handle @aminoudnalatita

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

OAPI and the European Patent Office (EPO) strengthen cooperation.

This is the second of three reports by Aminou Ndala TITA based in Cameroon on developments at OAPI:

"A regional workshop was held in Yaoundé on the 8th and 9th of September 2014 at the headquarters of OAPI on the theme "OAPI - European Patent Office (EPO) partnership to support the activities of OAPI member States in the development of innovation by promoting the patent system”. It aimed at improving the win-win cooperation that has existed since 1985; improving the procedure for granting patents, the capacity building of staff of OAPI and the national liaison structures, etc. In attendance were all the member states of OAPI and a team from the EPO.

This meeting was organized to strengthen bilateral relationship that existed between both institutions. It should be recalled that OAPI signed an MOU with EPO as far as back as 1962 when the organization still known as the Intellectual Property Office for Africa and Malagasy. As from 1977, OAPI was already submitting information for publication on espace.net.


Overall, the key areas of cooperation under the new partnership for the period 2013-2017 will revolve around training, assistance on patent application, assistance in raising awareness and technical infrastructure. The Yaoundé workshop has consolidated the position of EPO patents in the OAPI jurisdiction, increase the use of regional patent system as a factor in economic development and promote the development of regional innovation and foreign industrial investment in Africa."

You can follow Aminou on the twitter handle @aminoudnalatita

Monday, 22 September 2014

OAPI celebrates in Burkino Faso

September has been a busy month for OAPI. Friend of Afro-IP and intellectual property consultant, Aminou Ndala TITA, has summarised developments for us in three guest posts. The first reads as follows:
"OAPI celebrated, on the 12th and 13th of September, African technology and Intellectual Property day in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso under the patronage of the President of Burkina Faso. This event which has become so customary to OAPIs calendar is in its 15th edition. Celebrated under the theme "Intellectual Property and Food Security in Africa", the event was marked by various activities including: a series of panel discussions, exhibitions of inventions, sports. Also a caravan to raise awareness on intellectual property was carried in the streets of the capital.
The choice of this year’s theme was motivated by the recent accession of OAPI to the UPOV convention and this year’s AU summit on Agriculture and Food Security on the continent.
The event aimed, among other things, to increase public awareness on the importance of industrial property in the daily lives of Africans and to celebrate the creativity and the contribution of creators and innovators to the development of the society.

This celebration was also an opportunity by the organization to create a framework for dialogue between the various actors, including policy makers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, inventors, and members of civil society. Read full story here."
You can follow Aminou on the twitter handle  @aminoundalatita.

Friday, 19 September 2014

CGT resurrected in Kenya but effect on IP not clear

Chebet
Coulson Harney's tax and IP division have issued a newsflash on the reintroduction of capital gains tax in Kenya, effective from 1 January 2015. You can read it in full here.

Judy Chebet, a tax and IP lawyer in John Syekei's highly effective IP team at the firm, summarises the impact on IP as follows:

1.     CGT will apply to the profit/gain to companies when they transfer their IP assets because of the wide definition of ‘property’.

2.     Under the new law, the gain is a net of acquisition cost and sale price of the asset, which in our view is for the most part not a workable model for IP because outside an acquisition transaction, there is no ‘purchase’ cost of IP. If the IP being transferred has been valued for purposes of the transaction, this cost is likely to be a market value (arms length) as opposed to a historical cost.

3.     It is not clear how the tax man will value IP for purposes of imposing CGT, and neither is it clear how or when the CGT would be collected by the tax authorities for IP transactions such as assignments, and even less clear where the IP is unregistered and therefore doesn’t need to be registered at KIPI.

4.     There is no guidance on the applicability of CGT in circumstances where there is no ‘sale’ as such, as in franchises, licences, dealerships and distributorships.

5.     Notably, the CGT framework is a 1970s legislation that was suspended in 1985 and is now being re-operationalised. We therefore expect that it will be quite some time before the necessary tax machinery is in place to deal with the valuation and assessment processes for CGT on IP, and we will closely monitor this. You may recall that in September last year, we passed the VAT Act 2013 which made IP transactions subject to VAT, and this is yet to be implemented.

6.     With this re-introduction of CGT, we advise that transactions involving transfer of IP as well as where IP rights are granted for a period (as in licenses for example) should be structured to give adequate time for the consultations with the tax authorities.


The law that has brought back CGT was signed into law only on Tuesday this week, and we are yet to see the final legislation, so we will update you in the event there are changes. We are also keeping a close eye at the tax authorities interpretation and implementation of the VAT Act  for IP assets, and we will do  the same for the Income Tax Act as amended by the Finance Act 2014.

Thanks Judy. It seems that you may have a busy Christmas closing deals before the Act becomes effective!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

COSON: Nigeria’s Private Copying Levy Scheme "gathering dust"

You don't need to tell Afro Leo that dust is a ubiquitous part of life! Back in 2012, Afro-IP enthusiastically covered the news about Nigeria’s decision to introduce a private copying (or copyright) levy scheme – a post which generated readers’ comments e.g. here and elsewhere. Today, this Leo can update you that the scheme hasn't yet cleared the final hurdle to become operational. 

According to COSON’s Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, the documents for the scheme can be found in a cabinet at the offices of the Federal Ministry of Finance (“FMF”) waiting for approval. [The ever-sympathetic Afro Leo says: at times, on matters of public interest, one might have no other viable option than to go public in order to get one’s voice heard or to influence another

Here are excerpts from COSON’s news article which reported what Chief Okoroji said at their flagship event, ‘No Music Day’, on 1 September 2014:

FMF might need this:
Quality ostrich feather duster
just £9.99 (Afro Leo brand) here,
much cheaper elsewhere!
 “…the Nigerian music industry is aware that the order to activate the Private Copy Levy has since been made by the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Mr. Muhammed Bello Adoke and published in the Federal Gazette. The Nigerian Copyright Commission has held several public consultations on the levy and the stakeholders have since looked forward to the commencement of the scheme. [Afro Leo is assuming that FMF folks were invited. In any case, please don't lose faith!]

Unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason, the documents seeking the approval of the Finance Minister to activate the scheme remain trapped in some files in the office of the Director of Fiscal Policy in the Federal Ministry of Finance while the industry meant to benefit from it is suffocating.” [Basically, COSON is laying responsibility for the birth or death of the levy scheme at the Minister’s door]

 “…if the Honourable Minister has any questions on the scheme, we are ready to provide the answers. We believe that within a few minutes, this scheme which will provide some succour not just for the music industry but also for the movie and literary industries should be given an opportunity to make progress.”[Hopefully, the Minister can find some time, in her packed diary, to review and put forward questions]


Commentary
Digressing for a moment. Last July, Afro-IP reported that the UK won’t be introducing a private copying levy as part of its copyright reforms. Essentially, the UK Government’s view was that levies “…are inefficient, bureaucratic and unfair, and disadvantage people who pay for content.” [Afro Leo believes that there is nothing wrong with having a private copying levy scheme, provided that it is transparent, fair and balanced to all concerned] As mentioned in the 2012 post, this Leo is still pondering how Nigeria came up with its levy scheme: was it based on an IP policy or did it just emerge like that? No need to guess because Caroline’s A-Z series will soon tell us if Nigeria has an IP policy (draft or otherwise). [Afro-Leo, a big fan of evidence-based policies with built-in review plan, mentions that there is a private use exception in Nigeria’s copyright law]

COSON’s news article also mooted the idea of government funding for Nigeria’s music industry - as seen in the movie industry through initiatives such as Project ACT-Nollywood. (On which see previous Afro-IP musings on Nollywood here, here, here, here and here) You see: the Nigerian Government has inadvertently opened the floodgates! Well, that's a subject for another post. 

Circling back to our main story, this Leo suspects that the reason for the current predicament might be because the FMF and Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) weren't on the same page from the start, or that lines of communication have broken down along the way. However, one would be forgiven to think (or to have expected) that folks at the FMF were aware and satisfied with the details of the levy scheme to the extent that it would only become a matter of rubber-stamping the Copyright (Levy of Materials) Order 2012. All suppositions!

Oh well, let's hope that the nice folks at the FMF can now decide to favourably make use of the duster (unashamedly plugged above for Afro Leo) so that the levy scheme can come to fruition to (again, hopefully) do what it's known for: compensating rightholders.
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Further reading
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WIPO's survey of private copying schemes around the world is here
Court of Justice of the European Union’s view on private copying levy is here
An empirical study of private copying levies across Europe is here
A case for and against private copying levy in Australia is here and here
General discussion on compensating rightholders for the private use exception is here
Latest update on France's private copying levy scheme is here

Sunday, 14 September 2014

South Africa's draft IP policy: a new article

"The draft national Intellectual Property Policy proposals for improving South Africa's patent registration system: a review", by fellow Afro-IP blogger Caroline Ncube (Associate Professor, University of Cape Town), has just been published online in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (JIPLP). The print version will be available soon. According to the abstract:
This article discusses South Africa's draft Intellectual Property Policy proposed reforms. It considers how these may be practically implemented. In particular, it focuses on the phased sector specific introduction of substantive patent examination, possible co-operation with other national or regional patent offices to enhance examination capacity, the retention of non-examination for utility or second-tier patents and the involvement of third parties in the examination process. It also considers the re-introduction of opposition proceedings to further strengthen the patent system.

The article points to other jurisdictions that have implemented some of these options such as Australia's utility patent system, the successful implementation of the peer-to-patent project in countries such as the United States (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) and opposition proceedings in Europe, the UK and Australia. It concludes that these are plausible and viable options that should be further explored for adaptation to the South African context.

The article will be of interest to those following policy and legislative developments in the developing world and particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, where change often begins in South Africa then extends throughout the region as neighbouring states follow South Africa's lead.