Friday, 30 March 2012

Intellectual Property Law Journal: call for papers

Afro-IP learns that the Intellectual Property Law Journal (IPLJ) is a newly established twice-a-year peer-reviewed journal from the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town (UCT); it will be published by Juta and will provide a platform for debate on local and international IP issues with relevance to South Africa. The IPLJ will publish academic debates, policy interventions and practice-focused pieces.

The IPLJ enjoys the support of an eminent Advisory Board drawn from the judiciary, academia and private practice from South Africa and beyond. Advisory Board members include Justice LTC Harms, Professor Coenraad Visser (UNISA), Professor Julian Kinderlerer (UCT), Tshepo Shabangu (President, South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law & Spoor & Fisher), Professor Jeremy Phillips (Afro-IP team member; IP Consultant, Olswang LLP; Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice) and Professor Peter Yu (Drake University & Editor, WIPO Journal).

The IPLJ is calling for submissions to its inaugural issue, which will be published in November 2012.

Submissions may be in the form of articles, notes and book reviews. The IPLJ sets no minimum length for submissions, but they should generally not exceed 12 000 words (articles), 5000 words (book reviews and case notes) or 3000 words (opinion and practice pieces).

Please send submissions to the IPLJ’s managing editors Lee-Ann Tong and Dr Caroline Ncube by 1 July 2012 via email to editorIPLJ@uct.ac.za.

The IPKat weblog has cheekily suggested that the name Intellectual Property Law Journal is not only highly descriptive but also liable to be confused with other similarly named titles.  At the top of the IPKat's home page side bar is a poll, offering readers the choice between Intellectual Property Law Journal and the more distinctive Aardvark.  The poll closes just before midnight on Monday 9 April. Please feel free to vote.

Tanzania: new article on trade mark confusion test

A new article by Alex B Makulilo (advocate of the High Court of Tanzania, lecturer at the Open University of Tanzania and PhD candidate, University of Bremen) has just been published in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice (JIPLP): it's "Likelihood of confusion: what is the yardstick? Trade mark jurisprudence in Tanzania". At present the article is only available to subscribers to the journal's online service and to anyone who wishes to pay for limited access -- but those who subscribe to the printed version will be getting their copy in the not-too-distant future.

Since JIPLP's publisher, Oxford University Press, has charitable status, one of its objectives is to make JIPLP available to educational institutions in developing countries (see Afro-IP post here). This means that Alex's article will be accessible to readers in Africa more readily than if it had been published in a regular commercial law journal.

What is the article about? According to the abstract:
"The most frequent issue which arises in any case of trade mark infringement is whether a commercial use of a particular trade mark is likely to confuse consumers. 
In this article, the author examines case law on trade mark infringement developed by the High Court of Tanzania and argues that this case law currently falls short of providing prescriptory guidance in terms of ambit and criteria for determining likelihood of confusion".

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Calling all African IP authors

The Trademark Reporter is the flagship journal of the International Trademark Association (fondly known as the INTA). IPKat and IP Finance contributor Neil Wilkof is a member of the editorial board of the journal and he has initiated a task force to solicit more articles on trade mark and related topics from African authors.

Any reader who is interested in writing an article for this highly regarded journal is invited to contact Neil at neilwilk@inter.net.il and let him know.

Further information concerning The Trademark Reporter can be found here.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

UK v USA: who is better at IP Technical Assistance?

Kingsley Egbuonu is well known in these parts as the author of the marathon A to Z series of visits to official national IP websites around the Continent, but he is a man of many parts. Here's a thoughtful and provocative piece from him which this blog is delighted to host:
"The UK v USA: who is better at IP Technical Assistance (TA) to African countries?

Promoting and improving IP regimes globally – especially in the developing world -- is often seen as exclusive to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In the African continent, the role of ARIPO and OAPI should not be underestimated or neglected. Nevertheless, do individual countries in the developed world have a complementary role to play in helping to establish a sound-- as well as beneficial -- IP regime in Africa? If so, should this be an active or a passive role?

This curiosity arose from the IPKat's piece (herethat the UK House of Commons' All-Party Intellectual Property Group (UKAPIPG) has announced an inquiry into the role of Government in protecting and promoting intellectual property at home and abroad. One of the questions (Number 5) posed by this inquiry is as follows: “….how should the UK government coordinate its policy at an international level and what should it do to promote IP abroad to encourage economic growth? Do you have examples of good and poor practice in this area?”

Well, the UKAPIPG might consider emulating the Commercial Law Department Programme (CLDP), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce that helps achieve U.S. foreign policy goals in developing and post-conflict countries through commercial legal reforms. The CLDP has six areas of expertise, one of which is IP. Based on the information on its website, CLDP’s main TA in Sub-Saharan Africa is in IP system development.

Commercial and legal connections and most recent UK effort

Afro-IP discovered last year that over half of the Community trade marks owned by companies based in Africa were filed on their behalf by IP firms here in the UK.

With the historical and present connections between Europe and Africa, it is not difficult to also find countries in both continents sharing similar legal or judicial systems (and Afro-IP can think of at least two African countries whose current IP legislation still mirrors - or until recently, used to mirror-- repealed IP legislation in the UK, in particular, the Trade Marks Act 1938). Surely this compatibility should make it easier for the UK to be at the forefront of IP technical assistance to these countries –- most of which are part of the Commonwealth.

But to be fair, the UK may well have a claim that as an EU member state, it already contributes to various TA programmes with IP/commercial law content to African countries (here and here). Perhaps most of the UK’s individual efforts go unnoticed; even so, Afro-IP reported this initiative -- albeit with questions.

Opportunity beckons

Afro-IP’s current country-by-country tour in search of official websites for IP offices in Africa has so far highlighted a desperate need for ICT improvement. Perhaps, this is where the UK government should start with as the evidence is abundantly clear. It may well be that lack of funds is not at issue for some of these countries and all that may be required from the UK government is a gentle diplomatic nudge to the relevant government personnel -in some of the countries seen so far on the tour- saying: “this is 2012 and a website is long overdue.”

The UK is already losing out to others in emerging markets in Africa and should not be complacent or risk alienating itself further. As economies in Africa continue to grow the UK government need not be told that a reliable and conducive commercial environment – based on respect and protection of all forms of property-- is equally important for those high-end goods and services that it intends to export. However, to avoid hysteria, the caveat should be that any TA or IP promotion project by the UK should be approached with a “non-zero sum” mindset with a view of assisting African countries – including at international level- to effectively utilise IP and recognisable sui generis rights for their own development and to their comparative advantage.

Pardoning my digression, readers’ comments are welcomed to the following questions:

(a) Should developed countries be promoting IP abroad?
(b) For the sake of argument and politics, is it better for the BRICS to assist Africa in IP development?
(c) Do you think that African countries need TA in IP from developed countries?
(d) If so, how should the UK deliver this – through ARIPO, OAPI or on a country-by-country basis? and
(e) Which are the critical areas for TA?

For a study analysing the impact of the UK’s IP technical assistance see here 
For CLDP’s upcoming IP workshops in Africa see here, herehere, here and here.
For luxury brands targeting Africa see here
For the next consumer market see here 
There are well-respected and suitably qualified IP practitioners in Africa (see here) and a firm based in an African country made the shortlist for the Intellectual Property Magazine Awards 2011".
Do let us have your comments!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Africa and India Collaborate for Change


Christine Kane* writes that during a recent two-day meeting that convened on March 1 and brought together more than 100 scientists, diplomats and 31 science and technology ministers from various African countries, India and Africa convened to discuss their current ties and how they could use them to benefit one another. It was decided that they are going to further their already deep relationship by working together to strengthen their social entrepreneurship, research and development, and innovation technologies. The alliance will allow both Africa and India to build off each other’s knowledge with the end result being a stronger and united front for expanding technology and science.

"There exists an enormous potential for cooperation in science and technology between India and Africa, given the fact that we both are emerging economies, share common problems and have to meet the aspirations of our people," said Jean Pierre O. Ezin, Commissioner, Human Resources, Science and Technology, at the African Union Commission.

The thought is that they can join forces to tackle problems that both places are facing. Having two different viewpoints will hopefully lead to viable solutions that would not have been thought of if Africa and India had been working independent of one another.

The relationship between India and Africa won’t stop there though. India has pledged a commitment to helping Africa grow and thrive as much as possible. With their partnership in building their science and technology the two hope to also reign in on Africa’s freedom and expansion.

"It has been the Indian government's unshaken resolve to ensure the upward mobility, empowerment and freedom of the African people," he said.

India has been committed to helping Africa ever since an earlier science and technology convention in 2008 when the two first pledged to combine efforts and work together by letting African researchers utilize Indian research institutions. While it may seem thus far like only Africa is benefitting from this relationship, it is in fact a mutually exclusive one that will lend itself to both sides.

"With 700 million people, Africa offers great opportunity for India's fast growing technological sector and it can't afford to ignore this when China is making great inroads. It wants to assert herself more and it has language and tradition on her side," PurnaSamanta, senior lecturer at the School of Economics at the University of Nairobi, said.

As the months and years progress it will be interesting to see how the collaboration really unfolds, and how both are able to benefit and grow with the help from the other.

**Afro Leo adds that this is one of a number of intiatives between the continents (see here for instance). The potential benefits for India include, for example, a massive market for their generic drugs that Africa so badly needs.

*Author Bio

This Guest post is by Christine Kane who is a graduate of Communication and Journalism. She enjoys writing about a wide-variety of subjects for different blogs. She can be reached via email at: Christi.Kane00 @ gmail.com.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Kenya patent claim drafting: a practical course

From Isaac Rutenberg, a US-based patent attorney now living in Kenya, comes the following report:
Prior art?
An excellent week-long conference devoted to patent claim drafting was held in Nairobi from March 19-23. The conference was organized by the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI, the Kenyan patent office), and was co-sponsored by WIPO and ARIPO. Participants and presenters included KIPI and ARIPO examiners, as well as IP-managers, scientists, and lawyers from a number of Kenyan Universities, research organizations, and law firms.

The conference was organized because KIPI has received many patent applications that do not have well-drafted claims. The conference was highly practical -- in one session, participants worked in groups to draft a set of claims for a ballpoint pen. The resulting claims drafted by each group where then critiqued by all participants. Conversations were lively, insightful, and highly useful (as indicated by feedback from participants).

KIPI recognizes that there are not many people in Kenya with experience in drafting patent applications. The training provided at the conference was meant to be only the first of many workshops, and was very well timed considering the growing interest by the various institutions in obtaining local and international patents. Interest is growing (at least in Kenya) among IP managers in using national and international patents to attract investment.

One of the participants remarked that she was glad that KIPI has moved beyond “awareness” conferences and has begun providing more practical sessions.

According to the WIPO and ARIPO representatives, KIPI is the most active of patent offices in the region. Based on Kingsley Egbuonu's marathon alphabetical trek around the official IP websites of African nations, this is not surprising. Kenya’s IP offices are  using the web
effectively, and this conference shows that KIPI is addressing a vital and timely need.
Kudos to KIPI, ARIPO, and WIPO!
Thanks, Isaac, for this very positive report. This blogger has long used the example of the ballpoint pen as an example of something which is familiar to us all but a nightmare for the untrained, or even trained but unpractised, individual to express in the form of a description and claims.

A to Z of African official IP websites no.41: Senegal

This week's stop-off on Kingsley Egbuonu's marathon alphabetical trek around the official IP websites of African nations brings him to Senegal. After last week's rather fruitless trip to São Tomé and Príncipe, Afro Leo's readers must be hoping for better news from sunny, sandy Senegal. If they do, they will be disappointed.  This is what Kingsley reports:
Overview

Senegal 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 an OAPI member.

Copyright Office

• The Senegalese Copyright Office is the competent office responsible for copyright and related rights in Senegal. 

• This office has no website.

Industrial Property Office

• The Senegalese Agency of Industrial Property and Innovation (ASPIT) is the competent office responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in Senegal. 
• This office has no website.

Social Media Presence

None.

Intellectual Property update in Senegal

No recent update.


Conclusion

Despite learning that Senegal recognises IP as crucial to its development, Afro-IP is highly disappointed that both IP offices and the responsible ministry in Senegal cannot be found online.

Considering reports that Senegal spent $27 million for a controversial monument in which the President apparently claimed proprietary rights, it is very difficult to say that a website is beyond its means.

Since the Senegalese President is conversant with IP rights and how valuable they can be, Afro-IP is hopeful that Senegal will one day spend less than 1 percent of the figure paid for its monument on a website for its IP office.
Kingsley tweets as @IPinAfrica

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Professional fees for IP services in Kenya

A useful review of the patent application process and office costs in Kenya has recently been published online (see details below). It explains the patenting process in simple terms for the benefit of laymen and identifies the forms that must be completed when filing an application with the Kenya Industrial Property Institute.  After listing official costs, the review adds:
"As regards legal fees, the Advocates (Remuneration) (Amendment) Order 2009 sets the minimum fee for professional services. In this case the professional service fee is determined by the order and by the quantity and complexity of the work involved".
This blogger suspects that, while practitioners are anxious to maintain viable IP practices and therefore have a clear interest in the setting of minimum fees, clients are more interested to know what the maximum is that they can be asked to pay for professional services.  In regulating IP fees, Schedule IV of the 2009 Order makes it look as though the minimum is also the maximum, since it appears to set a fairly precise and rigid fee structure for a large array of non-contentious services provided for the benefit of the client.  Can any reader from Kenya give further guidance on this?

Source: "Intellectual Property - Kenya: Patent application and review process", contributed to International Law Office by Anthony Gakuru (Njoroge Regeru & Company), 27 February 2012

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

South Africa: UJ IP Seminar a sell-out

Prof Alberts reports that his Seminar on Friday 23 March is expecting 165 IP enthusiasts! The day's entertainment is listed underneath an empty red phone booth on a deserted jetty beneath blue skies, or you can just click here, with directions here. Note that the program has a number of modifications over the program first promoted by this blog. The Seminar kicks off at 8h40 and ends at 15h30. See you there!

Copyright: Media Monitoring Organisations face the prospect of paying copyright fees for newspaper content

Business Day has reported here on a “new” licence which will “force” media monitoring organisations to pay copyright fees on their use of copyright-protected content from newspapers. Swiss-based South African IP lawyer André Myburgh of Lenz Caemmerer says that the obligation on the part of media monitoring organisations (known as press clipping agencies before the advent of the internet) to obtain publishers’ consent is not new at all, and reports on a series of recent cases in the United Kingdom and on what it means for the licensing of newspaper content in South Africa.

"In the United Kingdom, eight newspaper publishers formed The Newspaper Licensing Agency Limited (a public company, known by its acronym ‘NLA’) in 1995 and mandated it to license the use of their content. Traditionally, newspaper publishers made their money from selling their newspapers and advertising, so the NLA was formed to exploit a secondary market of licensing reproductions of their content by media monitoring organisations (MMOs) and their customers. In addition to mandates from its founder members, the NLA now has mandates from newspaper publishers across the UK and it can also license content from overseas newspapers by virtue of bilateral agreements which it has with other reproduction rights organisations.

The structure of the NLA’s licences required not only the MMO to be licensed, but also its customers. One MMO, Meltwater, objected to this licensing scheme and referred it to the Copyright Tribunal. The Tribunal stayed its proceedings pending the outcome of a decision of the High Court whether the customers would, by using Meltwater’s service, be making reproductions of copyright-protected material. Following the decision of the European Court of Justice in the Infopaq case (which was also a dispute between newspaper publishers and a MMO) in which it was held that there could be copyright in an extract of 11 words from a newspaper article, the UK Court of Appeals held that there could be copyright in a newspaper headline as well and, as a result, due to the way in which customers would have to replicate the electronic copies received from the Meltwater service on their own computers, they would require a licence from the copyright owners, who were represented by the NLA. This decision is currently on appeal to the Supreme Court.

For those readers who may be interested in the technical details and the legal underpinning of these decisions, the Infopaq judgment can be found here.

After the decision by the Court of Appeal, the matter went back to the Copyright Tribunal, whose decision was handed down less than a month ago. The main part of the decision involves a complex analysis of the revenue models available in order to identify a fair share of the revenue that will go to the NLA, the end result of which appears to leave the NLA with about 8% of Meltwater’s revenue. The decision also deals with the reasonableness, or not, of some contractual terms found in licenses and the issue of territoriality. The Tribunal’s decision can be found here.

In South Africa, the obligation to obtain the copyright holder’s consent for making a reproduction of his or her copyright-protected literary work is as new as the first copyright legislation in this country, which is nearly 100 years old, not counting the copyright legislation that existed before that in the various colonies. What is new (as reported in Business Day) is the drive to regularise the reproduction of newspaper content by MMOs and their customers . But insisting that any business model that relies on the use of copyright-protected content of others under licence is hardly new; it is nothing else than putting into practice a basic and longstanding requirement of copyright law which needs to be respected.

Newspaper publishers could deal with copyright clearances themselves, but it is more usual for them to appoint reproduction rights organisations, such as the NLA in the UK, to do so on their behalf. Most reproduction rights organisations, including the NLA, are members of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations, IFRRO. In South Africa, the only IFRRO member is DALRO (referred to in the Business Day report), which was founded in 1967 and has managed the exploitation of secondary rights on behalf of publishers since 1990. DALRO is mandated by newspaper publishers in South Africa and it has bilateral agreements with reproduction rights organisations internationally, including the NLA, under which it can license local and overseas content.

The proper licensing of newspaper content still has to develop in South Africa, but with precedents such as the Meltwater case in the UK and with the body of knowledge available from organisations such as IFRRO, it should not be a case of re-inventing the wheel. And the wheel is not new."

André has acknowledged that his firm advises DALRO on its international bilateral agreements and licensing.


License fees payable for search results?
Comments: Afro Leo respects Andre's views and welcomes the contribution. He points out though that the decisions in Meltwater and Infopaq are highly controversial especially insofar as they may mean that end users (such as subscribers to LegalBrief or other media monitoring services or an internet browser) may be infringing copyright (and hence required to pay a licence fee) simply by opening an email containing press clippings or browsing the web. The excellent IPKAT weblog records the controversy over these judgements here, here and here even postulating that Melwater may change internet browsing as we know it. Thus whilst the precedents in Meltwater are helpful, Afro Leo believes we will need to wait until the Melwater appeal judgement, expected toward the end of 2012/beginning of 2013, before the full effect can predicted under local law. Comments welcome!

Monday, 19 March 2012

TK on death row? - Dean's final appeal

Now that's a proper bill
The highly criticised Traditional Knowledge Bill in RSA which is due to become legislation imminently has received a final abandonment call from Prof Owen Dean representing the Anton Mostert Chair of Intellectual Property. The call takes the form of an alternate Bill which Dean describes in IP-Watch as:
"build[ing] on, expand[ing], correct[ing] and delineat[ing] the scope of the current Bill to make it work (however difficult) as an independent statute for this (clearly) independent type of work."
Dean's persistence is to be admired. Drafting an entire Bill  requires significant time and effort - time and effort that may well (indeed, most likely will) come to nought. Changing the course of the proposed TK legislation at this late stage will surely require divine intervention. Dean's frustration is evident by his own increasingly emotive language as the proposed Bill has made its way, despite significant criticism.

Afro-IP readers have had their say too - of the 55 people who participated in the poll not a single vote went in favour of the current proposed legislation as it stands. Yet, not even an acknowledging peep from proponents of the Bill.

It is easy to criticise and not propose solutions. However, Dean has not done that. No doubt his new Bill will attract its own criticism (eg there is no substantive examination and the constructive notice principle seems harsh) but the basic premise is that it is a separate piece of  legislation creating a separate right or bundle of rights that seems much neater and more workable than the current proposed method of dealing with TK protection.

What is of concern to Afro Leo is how disengaged the government appears to be. Dean has shown, in no uncertain terms, that he does not like to be ignored and, frankly, he deserves not to be. This Leo has heard him lament a "golden era" of IP along with other distinguished figures, such as former SCA Judge Louis Harms who, incidentally, is due to speak on the "Politics of IP" at the upcoming UJ Seminar. It seems abundantly clear that stalwarts of the local IP community are suffering from severe laryngitis.

For an explanation and context of the criticism click here and read the right hand side of the blog.

For a synopsis of the proposed Bill by Dean, click here.

For Yahoo's Answer to the "fastest way to cure laryngitis" click here.

A to Z of African official IP websites no.40: São Tomé and Príncipe

In this, the fortieth stop on Kingsley Egbuonu's alphabetical tour of African official IP websites on behalf of Afro-IP, Kingsley reaches São Tomé and Príncipe. Not the best-known or most obvious of African states, São Tomé and Príncipe seems little troubled by the internet.  As Kingsley explains:
Overview

The Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe is a Contracting Party to several intellectual property treaties but it is yet to sign up to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

Copyright Office

• The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports is the competent office responsible for copyright and related rights in São Tomé and Príncipe. 
• This office has no website.

Industrial Property Office

• The Serviço Nacional da Propriedade Industrial (SENAPI) is the competent office responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in São Tomé and Príncipe. 
• This office has no website.

Social Media Presence

• None found.

Intellectual Property update

None found.

Conclusion

No website was found for either of the IP offices in São Tomé and Príncipe. Similarly, Afro-IP did not find any tangible IP initiative or activity associated with São Tomé and Príncipe online.

Agriculture used to dominate São Tomé and Príncipe’s economy in terms of revenue until recent oil exploration. Notably, the island is a member of the Alliance of Cocoa Producing Countries (COPAL).

Monte Café is renowned for coffee production; this is probably the reason why some label São Tomé and Príncipe as the “chocolate island”. This heritage is so popular that there is a tourist attraction on the island called “Coffee Road” Ride.

After many years of not reaping the rewards of its natural endowment, Ethiopia recently found out that some form of IP right could help its farmers (here and here). Without prejudice to other sectors of its economy, São Tomé and Príncipe could also benefit by embracing IP (or a suitable sui generis system) for the good of its ailing agricultural sector.
Kingsley tweets as @IPinAfrica

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A to Z of African official IP websites no.39: Rwanda

Kingsley Egbuonu's alphabetical trek around Africa's official intellectual property office websites is now beginning to accelerate. Skipping over all those African states that begin with the letters O, P and Q, Kingsley reaches the fascinating little state of Rwanda -- a country with a tragic recent history but, almost miraculously, an increasingly bright future. This is what he reports:
Overview

Rwanda is a Contracting Party to several intellectual property treaties 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 Office of the Registrar General, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is the competent office responsible for copyright and related rights in Rwanda.

• The website for this office is www.rdb.rw

Industrial Property Office

• The Office of the Registrar General, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is the competent office responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in Rwanda.

• The website for this office is www.rdb.rw

Social Media Presence

• The Rwanda Development Board is on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/RDBrwanda and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RDBrwanda

Intellectual Property update in Rwanda

None found.

Prospects

The copyright and IP office share an impressive and functional website but, on the downside, this website holds little or no useful information on IP. However, readers looking for resources (including IP laws) should visit the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s (MTI) website here. The MTI is responsible for promoting IP in Rwanda and its IP policy (November 2009) can be found here.

As suggested on our visit to Nigeria, it may well be worthwhile for Rwanda to consider having two separate offices, each with its own website. One of the advantages of this is that users would then find it easier to locate the information they want, where they expect to see it.

Notwithstanding the above, it is remarkable to see that the RDB is utilising ICT in carrying out its duties; in particular, Afro-IP is impressed with its use of social media. Therefore, it is our view that with further support and effort, Rwanda should be in the position to do better in promoting IP when one considers the RDB’s desire and ability to harness the internet.
Kingsley tweets as @IPinAfrica

Friday, 9 March 2012

Kenya waits on landmark decision affecting access to drugs due out today

Protestors outside court: Suleiman Mbatiah/IPS
The Constitutional Division of the High Court is expected to deliver a landmark judgment on certain suspended clauses in the Anti-Counterfeit Act of 2008 according to Africa Science News. The case is as controversial as it is important not only for Kenya but for the entire East Africa region considering new anti-counterfeit legislation. The nub of the complaint is that the current clauses prevent access to affordable generic medicine and are overly protective to rights holders.

John Syekei previously wrote this piece for Afro-IP summarising the issues and commenting that his concern is that the Court will favour public interest groups without a full analysis the law, as drafted. Essentially he believes the problem is bad drafting.

"The question that begs is whether the Constitutional Court shall in its interpretation of the [Anti-Counterfeit] law, redraft the AC law , re-look at the existing Patent laws in Kenya and issue a judicial comment on them or shall it send it back to Parliament? This decision will definitely redefine the landscape as we know it as relates to Patent protection of branded medicines, Trademark rights and Counterfeit practices." ...

An update from anyone in the region after the decision would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Africa IP Summit postponed - not indefinitely we hope

Phew, merging practices is a lot of work but this Afro Leo is now back in your inbox! Don't press delete - here is a quick update on the Africa IP Summit (for background please read this post here and its links):

CLDP have posted this statement on their website:

“The African Intellectual Property Forum, originally slated for April 3-5, 2012 in Cape Town, will be rescheduled. Organizers are committed to ensuring that all stakeholders – in government, private business, the arts and the development community – are represented and engaged in the conference organization and agenda.”

Afro-IP readers had their say (multiple votes allowed):

Yes it is wholly inadequate
  9%
No the agenda stacks up
  25%
The agenda could be improved but is ok
  29%
The agenda needs to be greatly improved
  40%

The positive spin on all of this is that Africa is under the spotlight, it is generating debate on IP (even if it is only about the agenda) and CDLP are likely to come back with vigour... and a new agenda. One hopes that 55 countries and 1 billion people (including "all stakeholders – in government, private business, the arts and the development community") appreciate that they contribute less than 1% of worldwide IP (in the sense of filings) and if it is to grow, as it should, criticism of these types of efforts must remain balanced and constructive. The turn out for the poll and lack of response from the DTI (to queries) unfortunately points to apathy, dis-interest, obstruction and/or arrogance. I hope I am wrong.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Breaking news: new Head for Nigerian IPO

Hajia Ahmadu Suka, Nigeria's Registrar of Trade Marks, Patents and Designs for the past five years, retired last Friday as Head of the Registry. Haija's duties have been taken over by Mrs Chinyere Agbai, a legal practitioner and Senior Assistant Registrar at the Registry, who will be Acting Registrar.

Thanks go to Aluko Folarin (Legal and Regulatory Affairs, Intellectual Property Institute) for this news and to Kingsley Egbuonu for letting Afro Leo know.

A to Z of African official IP websites no.38: Nigeria

The 38th country in Kingsley Egbuonu's alphabetical trek around Africa's official intellectual property office websites takes him to the populous, restlessly-creative and always challenging jurisdiction of Nigeria, which is not so much a country as a world of its own -- it hosts so many languages, cultures, resources and competing economic interests within its borders. This is Kingsley's summary:
Overview

Nigeria is a Contracting Party to several intellectual property treaties including the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Nigeria holds observer status with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).

Copyright Office

• The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), under the Ministry of Justice, is the competent office responsible for copyright and related rights in Nigeria.
• The website for this office is www.copyright.gov.ng

Industrial Property Office (IPO)

• The Registry of Trade Marks, Patents and Designs (Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry) is the competent office responsible for the administration of intellectual property rights in Nigeria. 
• Apparently, the official website for this office is www.iponig.com (when tested this morning, the link didn't work. Can anyone advise?)

Technology Transfer Office 

• The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) under the Ministry of Science and Technology is the competent office responsible for, inter alia, IP promotion and commercialisation, registration of technology transfer agreements and other IP advisory services including patent filing. 
• The website for this office is www.notap.gov.ng

Social Media Presence

• The NCC is on facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nigerian-Copyright-Commission/226944477362880 

• NOTAP uses both facebook and twitter.

Intellectual Property update on Nigeria

• We have also reported on the agreement between the UK’s IPO and the Nigerian Copyright Commission to cooperate on all matters relating to copyright.

Brief analysis

Afro-IP took the unusual step by adding NOTAP as a third office to the normal two seen so far in other countries. First on the positive side, we are pleased to report that the websites for the NCC and NOTAP are both functional and useful albeit a few pages under construction. Now let’s proceed to the main IP office.

When Afro-IP visited and reported on the launch of www.iponig.com last year, it was impressed with its findings. Unfortunately, we are disappointed to now report that this website is either currently offline or no longer in existence. No news report was found dealing with this problem.

Nigeria’s national development agenda, boldly titled: Vision 20:2020 (Vol. II), does recognise the importance of IP to its economic aspirations. On page 221, Part IV, a conducive environment for IPRs for the benefit of a knowledge-based economy is envisaged. Further down on page 227, one of the strategies for a strong ICT sector is to ensure adequate systems for IPRs protection. There is equally an audacious statement on page 96, Chapter 8 (Vol.III) of same agenda, which talks about security of life and property – and, to Afro-IP’s surprise and delight, this included intellectual property.

Indeed, these observations in Vision 20:2020 go to demonstrate that Nigeria has incorporated IP in its economic development agenda for the future but, without a website for its main IP office, the hope instantly diminishes. As a Next-11 country with potentials within its entertainment and fast-moving consumer goods FMCG sectors, it would be naïve for Nigeria to be lax about IP.

Conclusion

It is very well documented that Nigeria is not wretched. Therefore, in a digital age, having an official IP office website will not just show credibility and/or commitment but, crucially, it will serve to provide up-to-date information to users and can actually help – if it has an IPRs search facility-- reduce unnecessary IP infringement actions such as the notorious one reported here
 and here.

It may well be the case that the administration system for IPRs in Nigeria could be better served by splitting the main IP registry into two parts. Consequentially, Nigeria should then be in a better position to strategically focus on and perfect the IP it can create the most – for example trade marks and designs- as it slowly get to grips with patents.

Finally, Afro-IP is a bit confused as to the precise role of NOTAP. Although it plays a vital role in ensuring that Nigeria is not left behind in terms of technological advancement, NOTAP appears to be burdened with numerous duties and responsibilities (see here and here) some of which align it in competition with the IP Registry and/or IP firms in Nigeria.

What do readers think?"
Kingsley tweets as @IPinAfrica