Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cape Verde publishes first IP Bulletin

Via Inventa International and a tweet from the excellent @filemot comes news that Cape Verde [on which see Kingsley Egbuonu's profile here] has issued its first ever IP bulletin.  According to this news item:
"... This is the first big step for the new IP Office (IPICV – Instituto da Propriedade Intelectual de Cabo Verde), which will soon be installed as a separate Office from the ministry of commerce and industry, and focused only on Trademark, Patent and Author’s Rights registrations. 
This new bulletin comprises the publication of the first 1,200 trademark applications that were filed in the country, along with several copyright registrations for artistic and literary art work".
Sadly this bulletin does not yet appear to be available online -- but at least it's a start.

Morocco - local company taken to task by TM Registry

The Intellectual Property practice at NJQ & Associates based in Amman, Jordan, has alerted Afro Leo to a cancellation action filed in Morocco on behalf of one of their clients:

"Planette Battery SARL, a Moroccan Company, filed a trademark application for "Platin Battery" in class 9 No. 122427 on 17 March 2009, which was published on 11 June 2009.



Acting on behalf of our client, YİĞİT AKÜ MALZEMELERİ NAKLİYAT TURİZM İNŞAAT SANAYİ VE TİCARET ANONİM, a Turkish company, we filed a cancellation action against the above application based on:


• Bad faith of the defendant, since he was our client's local distributor in Morocco.


• Filing the subject trademark by the defendant lead to unfair competition and harm our client's interests.


• Our client is the sole and legitimate owner of the trademark "PLATIN BATTERY" around the world.


• Prior use and registration of "PLATIN BATTERY" by our client.


• The registration of the mark by the defendant violates the provisions of Paris Convention and local laws.


• The trademark "PLATIN BATTERY" is well-known and is associated with the name of our client.


• Due to the fact that our client's trademark is well known, then accepting the registration of the defendant's identical trademark will lead to public confusion.


• Considering the above, the Registrar has issued his decision in favor of our client by canceling the registration of the defendant Planette Battery SARL.


For more information please do not hesitate in contacting us at morocco@qumsieh.com"

Social media and IP

On Friday Afro Leo spoke at the Social Media Branding and Marketing conference co-ordinated by the super effecient Japhet Mushinge of the Conference Hub and chaired by Cindy Davidson of Feedback Media Afro Leo's slides can be located here. The conference was well attended and the twitter feedback unnervingly, instantaneous. These are a summary of the Leo's thoughts:

  • Do not ignore social media infringements – those that infringe your content and you/your employees infringing others
  • Register trade marks and copyright (where applicable)
  • Develop social media watches
  • Register relevant handles and user names
  • Take prompt action but be aware of alternatives eg legitimising infringers
    • don’t be whipped by the long tail by, for example, by being overly aggressive
    • don’t forget traditional solutions to online infringements
  • Develop a social media user policy
  • Engage your social media program with your domain name and bricks and mortar infringement program
  • Make use of the self help features on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook but seek advice before making a complaint 
During his research Afro Leo was particularly impressed by YouTube's Content ID program which can be viewed here. Unfortunately the Leo only had time to listen one of the talks before him but it was a very good one presented by Greg Comline - Executive, Digital Channels, Deloitte Consulting Pty Ltd - who explained how Deloitte had made considerable savings on recruitment using Linkedin, and how their sophisticated analytics around social media have enabled the company to get quality content into the right conversations, and ulitimately lead to more exposure and work.

Please stay in touch, next week Afro Leo (with the help of two local university students and some recent WIPO stats) considers 12 African Registries, and which one would be the most appealing to invest in.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A to Z of African official IP websites no.24: Guinea-Bissau

In this, the 24th week in which Afro-IP's intrepid web-explorer Kingsley Egbuonu has gallantly trawled the internet in search of an online presence for the intellectual property offices of Africa's many and varied nations, Kingsley reaches the little-known region of Guinea-Bissau. Sadly, G-B is not a fertile ground for official online IP services. Kingsley reports his findings here:

Overview
Guinea-Bissau is a member of the OAPI and a contracting party to the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention and the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Copyright Office

  • The Guinean Copyright Society (Ministry of Education, Youth, Culture and Sports) is the office responsible for copyright and related rights in Guinea-Bissau.
  • Currently, this office has no web presence.
Industrial Property Office(s)

  • The General Directorate of Industrial Property (Ministry of Trade and Industry) is the competent office responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in Guinea-Bissau.

  • Currently, this office has no web presence.
Social Media Presence
None
 Conclusion
Like most members of the OAPI club, Guinea-Bissau is yet to establish a web presence for its IP office(s). Perhaps, IP is not on its development agenda and it is also often the case that a lack of web presence means less activity in the area of IP on the ground.
Kingsley tweets as @IPinAfrica

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Africa, Social Media, the Internet and IP

Afro Leo is preparing for a talk on IP issues at the Social Media Branding and Marketing conference tomorrow at the Monty. With luck he'll have time to share his talk in a series of posts but in the meantime his research has lead him to some fascinating information. The implications for those of us living in Africa are just starting. Should be fun ... as Africa gets wired up.

Sub-saharan Undersea Cables in 2013 - maybe (version 31)
Source: African undersea cables by 2013 (maybe)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

IPRs and Competition Law: a Nigerian Opportunity?

What does Kingsley Egbuonu do when he's not writing Afro-IP's A to Z features on official online connections to Africa's multifarious nations?  Here's part of the answer: he focuses his thoughts and his research powers on African IP issues such as the one which Afro Leo is pleased to host below.  Do please let us -- and Kingsley -- know what you think!
"IPRs and Competition Law: a Nigerian Opportunity?

The essence of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and the need to protect them as far as practicably possible is well documented. Although these rights are recognised “monopolies”, they are good for society but, when misused, they are detrimental to consumers and to the public interest. There is an interface between IPRs and competition law and this is recognised in the TRIPS agreement. [nb this is a vast subject in itself, far too big for a single blog post. This article just addresses some salient points]

TRIPS and Anti-Competitive Practices

Article 40 of the agreement recognises that certain exploitation of IPRs (eg licensing and/or its conditions) may restrain competition and impede technology transfer. While it essentially allows Member States to legislate against anti-competitive practices, this is not a mandatory requirement. However, it is rather unusual for a country to have an IPR system without a competition regime acting as a counterbalance to limit IPRs.

In the context of IPRs, the sectors which normally come under competition scrutiny are pharmaceuticals, IT/telecommunications and entertainment & media, while patents, know-how and copyright are the usual corresponding suspects. Practices that have been considered anti-competitive include (a) grant-backs of improvements relating to a licensed technology (b) no-challenge clauses; (c) tying-in or illegal bundling; (d) refusal to license IPRs; (e) extending the life of an expired patent in order to stifle competition or unduly profit from it; (f) charging discriminatory royalty rates; (g) control or refusal to supply interoperability/compatibility information; (h) standard-setting/compliance organisations and “patent ambush” risks; (i) mergers resulting in concentration of IPRs and (j) over-zealous brand extension strategies. The anticompetitive consequences of any or a combination of these practices include price collusion, market foreclosure and competitor exit. 
The Need for a Competition Regime in Nigeria 
A competition regime in a free market benefits consumers through lower prices, better quality and greater choice. It drives economic growth, ensures that wealth is not concentrated in the hands of the few and lifts millions out of poverty. Crucially, it also provides businesses with the opportunity to compete on price and quality, in an open market and on a level playing field without anti-competitive restraints. The only available means by which businesses can compete and showcase the quality of their goods is by the use of trade marks (this is yet another interface). 
A company (including an IPR holder) with significant market power and dominant position operating in a jurisdiction without standard competition law rules and an overarching competition authority can in effect engage in any of the above deemed anti-competitive practice(s) without fear. Unfortunately, Nigeria is one of those jurisdictions and according to sources there are “hard-core” cartels operating there at this very moment.

According to a Reuters news report last week, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were fined a combined total of $235 million in Nigeria. The report adds: "We are charging British Airways $135 million and Virgin Atlantic $100 million for abuse of a dominant position, fixing prices, abusing fuel surcharges and taking advantage of passengers. We have been investigating for the last six months, Lagos to London has the highest route yield in the world. Our market is open for exploration, not exploitation." said Harold Demuren, Director General of Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

According to The Nation, the NCAA in essence relied on the investigations/findings of the UK and US competition authorities in reaching its own decision. A statement from BA said: “We reject the allegations made by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and we are vigorously defending our position….” while Virgin responded: “I don’t think we have violated Nigerian law in any way. We hold the Director-General of the NCAA and the agency in high esteem. We respect the laws of the land. A full response will be coming from our office later” (here). Is there a subtle message in both responses?
According to available information, the NCAA serves as the regulatory and competition body for the aviation sector in Nigeria. This is also similar in other sectors of the Nigerian economy. Perhaps, if it had a stand-alone competition authority, Nigeria might have had the benefit of information-sharing with its counterparts in the UK and/or the US since 2004 and could have acted swiftly on such information. At least, this would have avoided the inevitable suspicion that this was a politically motivated decision considering the fact that Nigeria and the UK had a recent dispute over their bilateral aviation agreement (here). 
Now back to IPRs and competition law. Nigeria (like other African countries) needs foreign direct investment (FDI) in its key sectors -- for example, the oil and gas, pharmaceutical and telecommunications sectors. The players in these sectors rely heavily on IPRs (patents or know-how) which will be exploited (by way of licensing and/or technology transfer). Without a stand alone anti-competition law and a competition authority to deter the practices cited above, how can Nigeria expect to benefit effectively from FDI as well as encourage a healthy competition in its economy? How does it ensure that smaller indigenous firms are not unfairly excluded from a market by dominant firms?

Overdue
An economy like Nigeria is now overdue for a competition regime: a dedicated law and a competent authority to enforce it judiciously. Most state-backed monopolies or state aid in key sectors are failing or have failed and it is the case that there is still inefficient allocation of resources in its economy. A competition regime will protect the interests of millions of consumers as well as create a level playing field for all kinds of businesses to flourish. 
Looking to other developing countries, both India and South Africa have a competition regime and are taking significant steps in building their own unique jurisprudence by adapting this legal transplant to fit their socio-economic development needs. It is also impressive to see that they both follow best practices seen in Europe and the US, for example, the authorities have functioning websites packed with information about competition law/rules, their powers/jurisdiction, guidance for businesses and news updates.

If the lawmakers in Nigeria are not remotely convinced with the “IPRs argument” for a competition regime, then bribery and corruption must be obviously convincing. Anti-competitive practices can also be seen as a form of corruption (see United States of America v Abb Middle East & Africa Participations AG, CR-01-N-135-S, where the defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rig contract bids on a United States-funded waste-water construction project in Egypt. Bribery and corruption in Nigeria is also well-documented.
Although sectoral regulatory authorities can enforce competition-like laws in their respective sectors, their competence and expertise cannot match those seen within a dedicated competition authority. 

I can see the attitude of the parties (NCAA, BA and Virgin) involved and it is not remotely surprising to me. The benefit of putting one’s house in order is that, when you speak, you speak with authority and you command respect. Once your house is in order, only a fool would disrespect your authority or decision.

If this is the wake-up call for Nigeria to put in place a competition regime, so be it! It can only go hand-in-hand with the IPR system that it already has in place - according to TRIPS".
Further reading

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fined in the UK and the US here and here
Neat little list and summary of recent price fixing and contract bid rigging cases here 
Monopoly in the power sector in Nigeria here
Monopoly and collecting societies in Nigeria here 
Cartels in Nigeria and the need for anti-trust law in Nigeria here and here
Overview on the current state of competition in Nigeria here
Handy analysis of the interface between IPRs and competition law here
ECOWAS competition policy framework in West Africa here
Why Nigeria needs a competition regime here
Presentation on regulating the telecommunication sector in Nigeria and the need for competition law here

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

IP Strategist and Afro-IP supporter gives evidence today

I try not to duplicate posts on other blogs but today there is reason to share information about a regular contributor of material to this blog who is testifying before the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking by the News of the World today:

Yesterday famous actor Hugh Grant gave evidence in the Leveson Inquiry. Today it is the turn of IP Strategist Mary-Ellen Field. If you ever wondered how IP licensing attracted the attention of News Of World then her evidence should be enlightening. But it is more than that - it is the story of how the reputation and health of professional business person and consultant is ruined by over zealous press seeking a story about her famous client. It could happen to you.

For a previous post and some background please click here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A to Z of African official IP websites no.23: Guinea

Can this really be the 23rd week that Afro-IP's intrepid web-explorer Kingsley Egbuonu has battled through the undergrowth of the internet in search of an online presence for the intellectual property offices of Africa's many and varied nations? Well it is, and this week it is the turn of Guinea to reveal, sadly, that its IP office does not appear to be plugged into the internet. Kingsley reports his findings here:

Overview
Guinea is a member of the OAPI and a contracting party to a number of international agreements on intellectual property; these include: the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention and the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization.
 Copyright Office

  • The Guinean Copyright Office (Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture) is the competent office responsible for copyright and related rights in Guinea.

  • Currently, this office has no web presence.
 Industrial Property Office(s)

  • The National Service of Industrial Property (Ministry of Trade, Industry, Small and Medium Enterprises) is responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in Guinea.

  • Currently, this office has no web presence.
 Social Media Presence
None
 Conclusion
Like most members of the OAPI club, Guinea is yet to establish a web presence for its IP office(s). Perhaps IP is not on its development agenda and it is also often the case that a lack of web presence means less activity in the area of IP on the ground.
Kingsley tweets as @IPinAfrica

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

IPRs in developing countries

Ever wondered about the role that IP plays in developing countries? Whether it is simply a system developed by those that have and imposed on those that do not (really for the benefit of those that have)? Or wondered what role trade marks have in IP or its role in incentivising innovation? Two posts yesterday may give you more food for thought:

The first, brought to Afro Leo's attention by proclaimed special agent Kingsley Egbuonu, is a post in the Guardian entitled 'The WTO has failed developing nations' citing 10 examples. Notably, at least two examples involve IPR policies and protection. The post is written by trade policy advisor Aurelie Walker. Incidentally, despite the title of the article, African governments have themselves been dilatory (useless in some cases) in implementing threshold requirements for proper IPR protection thereby contributing to the failures.

The second is a thought provoking post on the excellent IPKat weblog by Nicola Searle dealing with the economics of trade marks in which it considers the elusive link between trade marks and innovation. Readers interested in the subject should also consider Adam Smith's article in WTR entitled 'Locating the missing link between Trademarks and Innovation'?

The two articles re-affirm Afro Leo's view that IPRs are fundamental to the economic progress of developing countries (whether they are imposed or not). As for the link between trade marks and innovation and whether trade marks really are intellectual property, an apple immediately comes to mind; it symbolizes innovation and by doing so incentives it. Employees who wish to be associated with innovation or find a culture of innovation are attracted to the company. Executives who wish to maintain the culture of innovation (and market share) are forced to innovate. The brand is protected by the trade mark thereby creating the link between the trade mark and innovation. Innovation is of course crucial to developing economies as well as those developed countries trying to get out of a recession reaffirming, to this Afro Leo at least, that IPRs are fundamental to both developing and developed countries.

Thoughts welcome.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Addendum: Braai salt case and thanks

Thanks to reader Alicia Louw who is preparing a presentation on the recent "braai salt" case for a seminar, Afro Leo now has the correct picture for comparison. The amended post can be viewed here.


Also, just a public thanks to outgoing SAIIPL president Tshepo Shabangu for acknowledging Afro-IP's contribution at the annual Institute dinner at the weekend which is much appreciated. Unfortunately Afro Leo could not attend. Sad Lion.

And, a notice to readers that the SAIIPL AGM is to be held on Wednesday 16 November 2011 at the Pretoria Country Club, Sydney Street, Waterkloof, Pretoria.


RSA: latest passing off decision - not just any old NaCl

Most readers will know that very few IP disputes ever reach a court decision. Like newborn turtles on a Mozambican beach, most never make it to the shoreline. They perish because of costs, delay, settlement, sanity and the ever increasing threat of ADR. This latest case out of the South African High Court of the Eastern Cape is an exception and its longevity is due to its subject matter - braai salt.

There is a specific culture around the "braai" that one needs to appreciate before reading this case and understanding its longevity. To the uninitiated please click here and here to get an insight into the institution of braaing and the strict cultural rules that apply. When one man's braai salt packaging begins to look like another, it is serious. Backing down is simply not an option.

The packaging in dispute looks something like this:


The applicant Swartkops' (represented by Adv Marriott at the hearing) packaging is named Marinas braai salt and the respondent has its manufacturer Cerebos' (represented by Adv Morely SC at the hearing) mark Buffalo above the words "braai salt" on its packaging. Swartkops' packaging (or its similar packaging) had been in existence for many years and Cerebros had received an earlier objection letter and had changed its packaging as a result. But not by enough apparently.

There are no registered trade marks protecting the packaging so this is simply a dispute over look-a-likes. Swartkops therefore relies on passing off which is a common law action.


Acting Judge Rorke sets about deciding the case with a useful, if not simplified, analysis of the law and finds that Swartkops indeed has a reputation in the get-up of its product. However, he dismisses the case on finding that there is no likelihood of confusion between the get-ups, citing with approval:

“These cases make it quite clear that a trader has no monopoly in the “get up” of his goods. However great the advantage and merits of his “get up” may be over that of his trade rivals, how ever much money, time and thought he may have expended over the designing of the particulars, when once he has used and published them they do not become his property but are common property, which can be appropriated by his rivals provided they do not mislead the public but make it perfectly clear that the goods in the “get up” are not his but theirs. When once this principle is clearly born in mind much confusion is, I think, avoided which in many cases of “passing off” arises. Assuming that there has been no infringement of the trademark, the question in “passing off” actions is whether the respondent, where he has imitated the applicant’s “get up”, has sufficiently differentiated his goods from those of the applicant. Under such circumstances the respondent is bound to make it perfectly clear that although he has adopted the applicant’s “get up”, the goods are his and not those of the applicant. If he succeeds in doing this then no liability rests upon him and no legal right of the applicant’s has been invaded.”


Rorke AJ reasons are set out in para 33-44. He also dismisses evidence of confusion by concluding that one of those confused was simply a careless buyer and not the average consumer, and that the other was not confused.

He also dealt with an interesting point argued by Marriott that the decision by Cerebos to change its packaging following an earlier objection had placed upon them a greater obligation to 'keep a safe distance away from the margin line'. This argument has been commented on by this blog before. Rorke held that the change had occurred without a 'conviction' and done on a without prejudice basis and therefore the earlier change by them had not placed any greater burden on Cerebos.

Although the packaging is close and not having had sight of the evidence of actual confusion, Afro Leo tends agrees with the decision. Unsurprisingly, he notes that the robust applicant does not and so looks forward to the appeal decision suspecting that it might be well like err umm... rubbing salt.

Amended the same day, from the original post.

Monday, 14 November 2011

A to Z of African official IP websites no.22: Ghana

Afro-IP's A-to-Z series of visits to the official IP websites of African states reaches episode 22 with the arrival of Afro Leo's special agent Kingsley Egbuonu in Ghana.  It seems that Kingsley has quite a bit to say about that jurisdiction, as he reports:


Overview
Ghana is a Contracting Party to several treaties on intellectual property including: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. It is also a member of ARIPO.
 Copyright Office

  • The Copyright Office (Ministry of Culture) is the office responsible for copyright and related rights in Ghana.
  • This office website can be found at www.copyright.gov.gh.
 Industrial Property Offices

  • The Registrar General's Department (Ministry of Justice) is the competent office responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in Ghana.
  • Currently, this department has no web presence.
Co-operation with foreign IP Offices/WIPO
On 19 November 2008, Switzerland and Ghana launched a project on intellectual property rights technical assistance in Ghana. The Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) is responsible for implementing the project on behalf of the Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO), who is financing the project. The project has a duration of three years beginning 1 January 2009” (here)
The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Betty Mould Iddrisu on the 12th of July 2010 launched Ghana’s Intellectual Property Development Plan at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva.
 Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrisu also secured an agreement between the World Intellectual Property Organisation and Ghana by which Ghana will benefit from financial and technical assistance to develop its intellectual property industry”(here
Social media presence
The copyright office’s website has links to various social media but they don’t appear to be connected.
Latest intellectual property update/law
The Copyright Regulations (2010) came into force on February 15, 2010 to implement the Copyright Act, 2005, No. 690 (GH012). The regulations cover various aspects of copyright including: registration, use of security device on copyright works and collecting societies.
Miscellaneous findings
During my exploration, I came across this book, “The Copyright Thing Doesn't Work Here: Adinkra and Kente Cloth and Intellectual Property in Ghana (University of Minnesota Press, March 16, 2011) by Boatema Boateng. Although you don’t judge a book by its cover or introduction, a preview using Amazon’s Click to LOOK INSIDE tells me that it is an interesting book on a highly debated topic - the protection of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions under the intellectual property regime. Students/researchers keen on intellectual property issues in Africa may find it insightful.
 Conclusion
Ghana appears to be utilising its partnership with organisations such as: WIPO and the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI) to make intellectual property a tool in its economic development.
 The Ghanaian copyright office’s website looks good, simple and instructive. A similar website for the industrial property office will perfect their efforts.
Kingsley tweets as @IPinAfrica

Friday, 11 November 2011

Anti-Counterfeit Friday

Singing against counterfeits
This post is a regular post every other Friday to highlight counterfeiting and piracy on the continent. For previous posts please click here. If you wish to send material for posting, please email us at afroipmail@gmail.com.

Chinese Engagement Brings Heightened Interest (AllAfrica) An excellent, if not condescending, look at US v China interest in Africa. Counterfeiting highlighted as a major concern, IP (tech transfer) stated as one of the (only) advantages for the US but a collaborative approach is suggested by the author. Afro Leo says: with 1/7th of the world's population, it is such a pity that Africa (or more likely, a group of the African states) cannot itself respond and use the opportunities more effectively. 

Kenya: Chaka Chaka Launches Anti-Counterfeit campaign (AllAfrica) Interpol and signers Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Yousso N'Dour launched a music campaign to fight counterfeit medicine in Africa. Apparently 700 000 die each year from fake TB and malaria drugs alone. True story. You can listen to it and an interview with Chaka Chaka, herself a victim of extensive music piracy, here.

Seized counterfeit goods donated to charity - another example of charity from the UK which may actually do more harm than good for the African fight against counterfeits.

Police have arrested a truck driver after he was caught with counterfeit cigarettes worth R4 million at a border post between South Africa and Botswana. Eyewitnessnews

Last but certainly not least Afro Leo received an alarming message that Microsoft is losing up to 80% of its revenue in Kenya because of pirated software. And the percentage is higher in other African states. This follows a "cut price" strategy reported on by Afro-IP in 2008 here together with comments from Paul and Aurelia.



Thursday, 10 November 2011

Dean savages poorly-conceived TK law as "mindless arrogance"

It is no exaggeration to say that that the venerable Professor Owen Dean is "Mr Africa" when it comes to intellectual property law. Owen has been around a long time: he is one of the most seasoned experts on IP matters within Africa. Indeed, he is older than all but two (Ethiopia and Liberia) of the independent nations in that continent.  Accordingly, when Owen says something it's worth taking careful note.

"The Mad Hatter In Wonderland: South Africa’s New TK Bill" is the title of a piece which Owen has just authored for the highly-respected Geneva-based Intellectual Property Watch.  You can read it in full here.  If you have no time to do so, do at least take note of this:
"So, the Department of Trade and Industry (“DTI”) has ... caused the South African Government to pass the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill (the so-called “Traditional Knowledge Bill”) despite vociferous objections from all quarters. It has rushed headlong into terrain where no angel would venture through acute trepidation. It has entered Wonderland and assumed the role of the Mad Hatter.

... By seeking to protect traditional knowledge as species of copyright, designs, etc. and to attempt to apply the existing laws in these areas to it, it has purported to create rights which are simply incapable of being enforced.  ...An enormous edifice of bureaucracy, councils, funds, trusts, databases and registration systems is to be created at inordinate expense and all to no avail since the system is not capable of being operated. What an exercise in futility and a waste of innumerable hours on the part of stakeholders, Government Departments and the Parliamentary process!

...  The IP profession, academics, the judiciary, the intellectual property industries, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) are but a few of those that have tried to show the DTI the folly of its ways. Even a Regulatory Impact Assessment commissioned in 2009 by the State President opined that the legislation was ill advised and that, apart from any other considerations, the cost of implementing it would outweigh any possible benefits that might flow from it. Alas, the DTI has been undaunted and unwavering in its purpose. It takes a special form of mindless arrogance to shrug off, nay be totally impervious to, such a strong body of informed opinion. Such obduracy is difficult to fathom ...".

Monday, 7 November 2011

A to Z of African official IP websites no.21: The Gambia

Afro-IP's A-to-Z series of visits to the official IP websites of African states reaches episode 21 with the arrival of Afro Leo's special agent Kingsley Egbuonu at The Gambia. We took an editorial decision to include this jurisdiction under "G" rather than "T" though, if we left it till 'T', Kingsley's conclusions might well have been more positive.

Overview
The Gambia is a Contracting Party to a number of treaties on intellectual property including: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. It is also a Member of the African Regional Industrial Property Organization (ARIPO).
Copyright Office
• The National Centre for Arts and Culture (Ministry of Culture) is the competent office responsible for copyright and related rights in the Gambia. 
• Currently, this office has no web presence.
Industrial Property Office
• The Office of the Registrar General, Attorney General’s Chambers (Ministry for Justice) is the competent office responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in the Gambia. 
• Currently, this office has no web presence.
Social Media Presence
None.
Intellectual Property Update in Gambia
The Gambian Industrial Property Regulations, 2010 ("the Regulations") came into effect on 1 January 2011. The Regulations incorporate prescribed forms and fees and supplement the Industrial Property Act (Chapter 95:03) ("the Act"). Section 46 of the Act has the effect that the Gambian Registrar will no longer be re-registering any UK or EP (UK) Patents, Trade Marks and Designs, therefore, applications should be made in The Gambia (for details see here)
Conclusion
The Gambia seems to be taking charge of its intellectual property regime and recent legislation demonstrates at least a keen interest in intellectual property. Having said that, a web presence is highly desirable, if not essential, to enable the Registrar communicate any developments in law and/or procedure -- for the benefit of local IP practitioners and foreign IP rights holders -- and also connect with the wider IP community.
Kingsley Egbuonu tweets as @IPinAfrica. If you like his series, tell him what you think!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Cloud computing and IP management

Rain or Thunder?
If yesterday's news put Afro Leo on cloud 9 then it is no coincidence that today his thoughts remain in the cloud. Cloud computing that is and its effect on IP management.

Afro Leo has long thought it an opportunity for firms based in Africa to make use of their low cost base and the increasing speed and accessibility of Internet access to make themselves available for the growing IP outsourcing (or more appropriately offshoring) market. Some of his thoughts were published by MIP here.

For in house counsel, in Africa and abroad, there are considerably more options for efficient IP management. For IP attorneys, the landscape is changing - tech savvy silicon valley firms have turned the filing market on its head in the States (and that trend will spillover into other jurisdictions as registry offices go online), there is now formidable competition from non legal service providers and there is worldwide competition for certain areas of IP management, especially from India. In short he feels that whilst there is good growth in IP filings worldwide, making IP business a healthy place to be, the nature of the business is changing. The increasing attractiveness of cloud computing is likely to accelerate the changes.

Cloud computing effectively allows for greater and more efficient collaboration which means that certain aspects of IP management can be more effectively achieved. In particular cloud computing has the capacity to (increase) change in the way databases are managed and updated for the protection of worldwide IP rights. For example, provided security and liability concerns are addressed (and there is no reason why they cannot be), a company's world-wide IP portfolio can be updated and maintained directly by those who protect the portfolio locally, using a cloud based service. This also means that in-house counsel (and their internal clients) can access that database too and not be so heavily reliant one a single external counsel or firm. Cloud computing has the capacity to stress out the middlemen, especially those who just maintain data.

Collaborative IP management is not an entirely new phenomenon to the way in which IP is managed. Afro Leo is aware of at least one external service provider that has used this type of thinking to sell it services but its database has been very expensive and the reports he has received have been lukewarm eg difficulties training and co-ordinating local lawyers and overcoming a resistance to the way in which those lawyers have, for decades, done their work. These drawbacks will continue but one feels that as cloud computing catches on, as we see a new era of students come into the workplace (whose education is based on collaborative learning), as costs decrease due to fierce competition amongst cloud service providers and as forward thinking firms respond or industry demands, the shift seems inevitable.

Your thoughts, as usual are welcomed.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Afro-IP nominated! Top 25 International & Foreign Blogs

Afro Leo is delighted (and a little astounded) to announce that Afro-IP has been nominated by LexisNexis as a candidate for the Top 25 International & Foreign Blogs for 2011.

LexisNexis is inviting practitioners to comment on their list of nominees in their International & Foreign Law Community and you can do so by clicking on their icon which is alongside (if you receive this by email, then please click here to get onto the Afro-IP).

They explain:

To "talk up" or nominate your favourite Int'l & Foreign blog, you'll need to be a registered community member and be logged in. If you have not registered previously follow this link to create a new registration or use sign in credentials from your favourite social media site. Registration is free! Once you are logged in, scroll all the way to the very bottom of this page. You should see a comment box. 


Your support is much appreciated. If this is the first time you have logged onto Afro-IP, here is a little bit of what we are about.



LexisNexis will announce their final list after November 11, when commentary closes.

Best wishes
Afro Leo



Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Legalization Requirements for Power of Attorney in Sudan

The Sudanese Registrar has announced that, with effect from the beginning of October, an ordinary duly signed power of attorney will be accepted instead of a legalized power of attorney for the purpose of filing trade marks, designs, patents and for applications for renewal.  A legalized copy of the commercial register is, however, still required for new applications.

Source: NJQ & Associates news letter. For further details email NJQ here.