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

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]

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.
Further reading
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.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

IP policies in Africa no. 34: Morocco

Morocco does not yet have an IP policy nor was this Leo able to find any information on the development of such a policy. She decided to poke about to see what the country has been up to recently in the hope that this would reveal what a Moroccan IP policy is likely to prioritise.

Morocco is party to  a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US (see full text here) and a co-operation agreement with the EPO (see here). Pursuant to her signature of the FTA,  Morocco has a TRIPS- plus IP regulatory framework. Presumably also linked to this relationship with the US, Morocco was the only African country involved in the negotiation and conclusion of the ill-fated Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which she signed in 2011 (see here). All of this may be an indicator that the country favours a strong (read TRIPS plus) regime which this Leo fears may not be appropriate for a developing country. However, the country has shown some appreciation of the need to have a properly nuanced IP regime that caters for users through its signature of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. It remains to be seen when the county will ratify the treaty and how her IP policy would balance her FTA obligations with user and societal rights.

WIPOLex entry here
for a discussion of the Morocco-US FTA see Omar Aloui 'Intellectual Property Rights' in Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Claire Brunel and Dean DeRosa (ed.s) Capitalizing on the Morocco-US Free Trade Agreement: A Road Map for Success (Policy Analyses in International Economics) (2009) pp147 - 162 ; full text here

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Libya: closed for new trade mark applications

Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property Group reports the sad news that, in consequence of the latest civil unrest in Libya, the Libyan Trade Mark Office has suspended its operations and will not be accepting new trade mark applications at this stage.

We at Afro-IP all look forward to a time when peace and good order will return to that troubled jurisdiction and that the most important thing to worry about will be trade mark oppositions ...

Monday, 8 September 2014

Cultural immersion - 30th Zulu Reed dance in pics

Zulu Chiefs in regalia

Maidens prepare to lay ceremonial reeds

Sun sets on Zulu maidens

Community building

Zulu chiefs perform

Maidens dance

and dance

and dance

King's minders


Queens look on

National pride

A King's speech

The Gambia ratifies ARIPO's Swakopmund Protocol

It kind of feels really nice like donkey’s years since this Leo wrote a blog post! There’s no better way to get back into the groove than with some good news from the smallest mainland country in Africa. 

Following on from Darren’s post, which informed us that The Gambia is keen on protecting traditional knowledge and folklore ('TK') for the benefit of its valuable tourism industry, this Leo understands that The Gambia has put its money where its mouth is by ratifying the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore (ARIPO). Read all about it, as reported by The Standard, here

The Gambia 1
Source: ARIPO
Readers may also wish to take note of what the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of The Gambia said at the inaugural event of ARIPO’s IP roadshow seminar held in Banjul, The Gambia, last August. According to ARIPO’s press release: 

“…Hon. Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh highlighted the most significant achievements of the IP Office in the country namely the clearance of a backlog, [This is brilliant news! See Afro-IP’s post in 2012 which told us that they were working on it] the inclusion of IP in the National Science and Technology Policy and the drafting of the IP Policy and Strategy. [On which see Caroline’s report on IP policy in The Gambia here] Hon. Singhateh also indicated that the Government took the conscious decision of joining the Madrid System on Marks and is following up on latest developments on the Banjul Protocol reforms and the text of the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore in order to consider accession.”[Talk about persuasion and conversion! Well done, ARIPO]

Further reading
A primer on ARIPO’s TK protection regime is here
Afro-IP summarises the TK discussions at the 2013 Africa IP Forum here
India and WIPO partner to protect TK here
A report published by the UN on indigenous peoples is here (for IP rights & TK, see pp. 64 – 77)
The British Monarchy’s commercial value is protected under various laws, and in the world of advertising (As Darren mentioned in his post referenced above)

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Nigeria Welcomes Online Copyright Registration

capture 108 The Nigerian Copyright Commission has announced an online registration system called NCeRS, Nigerian Copyright e-Registration System.  The new system is available on the NCC website – in fact, when this Little Leo went to the usual http://www.copyright.gov.ng site, she was greeted by a nice big pop-up encouraging her to register her work at the NCeRS url http://www.eregistration.copyright.gov.ng/?.

The NCeRS site includes more than just a registration portal.  There is nice FAQ section that answers question about registration and copyright generally.  The searchable database is a great feature.  It’s unclear whether or not the database is already running (and Little Leo just couldn’t make any good guesses about already registered works to find) or if it will be populated as the digital registrations come in. The database search isn’t quite as user-friendly as the US Copyright Office’s.  For example, in the NCC database, you have to know whether the name you’re searching is the Author or the Copyright Owner.  In the US database, you can search one name in multiple fields at the same time.  Also, “Keyword” usually means searching for a word or phrase in any field.  In the NCC database, the “Keyword” field is a drop-down menu where you have to choose the work type, another category that would sometimes be nice to leave blank.

A few other links to additional services currently redirect to the home page, so it looks like NCC will be rolling out more features as the program continues to be built.

Little Leo Tries Registering a Work

Registering for an NCeRS account was pretty easy.  The free-form box for address is nice when dealing with registrants from multiple jurisdictions.  Beware: this is one of those systems that will email you your password once you register. Don’t use a password you use anywhere else.

Once you’re logged in, the site takes you to a Dashboard showing the status of all your applications.  This is pretty neat and a bit nicer than the US eCo system (with which Little Leo is more familiar), because it divides the cases by status for an easy glance-over.

The registration form is pretty simple and straight-forward, at least for a copyright attorney.  General creators may stumble a little on questions like “Medium of Fixation.”  The drop-down menu helps, although it has a limited list of mediums: CD, VCD, DVD, VHS, Audio Tape, Paper.  There’s nothing for other digital fixations such as hard-drives, which is particularly interesting since the Nigerian Copyright Act explicitly protects computer programs as literary works.  Does a computer program need to be saved on a CD before it can be registered?

For works already registered in another jurisdiction, the form allows inputting information about any existing registrations.  Obtaining the physical certificate from the NCC may be a little difficult for anyone outside of Nigeria.  The form suggests certificates must be picked up in person from one of the NCC’s 15 listed Zonal Offices.  But, that entry isn’t required and it’s not clear what happens if it’s left blank.

The Author Information page is a bit repetitive if the owner and creator are the same person, but it’s not a lot of info to retype.  The Nationality question is fun simply because the dropdown menu actually lists nationalities and not countries.  For those whose nationality name is very different than their country’s name (i.e. Dutch or American), it requires some thinking.  Re-entering information a third time for a Correspondence person is a bit tiresome.  It’d be nice if there were a checkbox option “Author is Correspondence person.”

Submission of the work may be done as an upload, by mailing the work to the NCC or by doing an office drop-off.  The office drop-off option is kind of neat.  Maximum file size for uploads is 20MB and there’s special instructions if registering a video work.

Once the registration forms are complete, you have the option to download a pdf via the “Print Application” button.  This is also a pretty neat feature.

The fees are listed as N10 (US$30) in Nigeria (versus $45 in the US).  However, the Nigerian fees are per relationship to the work, so if you register as both Author and Copyright Owner, it’s a $60 fee.  There is a processing fee for paying online, but it’s minimal.  Payments are done through a third-party site, and you do need to create a separate account for it.  Little Leo couldn’t get past this point and actually pay for the registration because the third-party site kept giving a server error.

When an application fee is not paid, the application stays in the “Pending Applications” area.  Clicking on the question mark at the end of the application row will check to see if payment has been made.  If it has not, the application will go to the “Saved Applications” area and can be edited there.  However, Little Leo could not figure out how to get back to the payment options screen.  Going through the whole app again and clicking “Save and Next” until the very end resulted in going to the pending applications screen instead of the payment screen.  Same thing with clicking on “Pay & Submit” in the side bar and with clicking through the link in the email saying that payment failed.  After 30 minutes of trying to figure this out Little Leo gave up.  (Guess it’s time to call some friends in Nigeria.)

Supposedly, registration has a very quick turn-around time.  Registration with the NCC is estimated to take about 10 days, shorter for registrations with payments and deposits made online.  By contrast, a US registration is currently estimated to take about 3-5 months for online registrations and longer for paper filings.  However, if the NCC doesn’t get the payment system working soon, it won’t matter how quick the turn-around time is supposed to be or how fancy the online registration system is.

NCeRS looks like it’s going to be great, but there are definitely still some kinks to work out.

Hat Tip to 9jaLegal (Facebook, Twitter) for info on NCeRS being launched.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

New constitutions, new commitment -- but can Egypt and Tunisia deliver?

The August 2014 issue of the world Intellectual Property Organization's WIPO Magazine has just appeared online. It contains an article of obvious relevance to this blog, "Egypt and Tunisia Underscore the Importance of IP". Penned by Ahmed Abdel-Latif (Senior Programme Manager for Innovation, Technology and Intellectual Property, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), Geneva), it draws attention to the commitment by both Egypt and Tunisia to the knowledge economy, as reflected in their respective new Constitutions. Commit is however nothing unless it is concretised in reality. As the author concludes:
The clauses relating to the knowledge economy in the constitutions of Egypt and Tunisia reflect the priority given to promoting innovation and creativity within the new socio-economic policies pursued since the Arab Spring. The reference to “building a knowledge economy” in the Egyptian Constitution is particularly revealing in this regard. The reference to private sector participation in research efforts reflects recognition of the weaknesses that have characterized the national innovation system and the need to address them. It remains to be seen whether and to what extent this priority will have a tangible impact on the ground, particularly in light of the difficult economic circumstances prevailing in both countries, the limited resources available, and competing public policy objectives.

The reference to IPRs in the Egyptian and Tunisian constitutions is part of a general trend towards the “constitutionalization” of IP protection within a human rights framework deriving either from the rights of inventors and creators or the right to private property. It also reflects higher levels of awareness and engagement with IP issues since the adoption of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

In light of the general wording of the IPR clauses in both constitutions, ultimately the manner in which these clauses are implemented through national laws and judicial decisions will be critical in ensuring that a balanced approach to IP protection is adopted; one which takes into account the level of development of each country and one which is supportive of their respective public policy objectives.
You can read this article in full here.