Monday, 9 December 2013

Global Congress for IP and Public Interest, Day 1, post 2

Having calmed down significantly after the slightly embarrassing error of the morning session (see the corrected posting here), this Leo has enjoyed the afternoon sessions at the Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest.
Embarrassed Leo
(Photo: Neils Wolmarans)

Another Leo, Dr. Ncube, hosted a roundtable on publicly funded research. This after a representative from NIPMO (South Africa’s National Intellectual Property Management Office) discussed the South African Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act (No. 51 of 2008). The entire discussion serves to remind that Bayh-Dole-type legislation is a hot topic of discussion in a variety of African countries, Kenya included (see, e.g., here). 

As an aside, it is interesting to recall that NIPMO hosted the Creating and Leveraging IP in Developing Countries (CLIPDC) conference in Durban just two weeks ago (previous posts here and here). CLIPDC had a significantly different feel compared with this Global Congress – the former had speakers from large multi-national corporations and the European and US Patent Offices, whereas the latter has no such speakers (or attendees for that matter). A few overlapping attendees are notable (Doctors Without Borders being one), but it’s significant and admirable that NIPMO is making an effort to communicate with both crowds.

A subsequent session discussed Common Property. Dr. Tesh Dagne (Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, B.C.) described Geographic Indications from the Ethiopian and Ghanaian perspective. He observed that having a legislative framework, as challenging as it is to get one, is only a first step. Implementing the framework takes significant government resources in administration, verification, and other supporting infrastructure. Also recall that the oft-cited example of protecting Ethiopian Coffee as a GI involved substantial outside expertise: “The Initiative secured financial support from the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom, technical advice from a Washington-based non-governmental organization (NGO), Light Years IP, and legal assistance from an American law firm, Arnold and Porter.” (Source: WIPO website). It’s certainly not possible for every potential holder of a GI to secure such assistance.

Closing the day was a session on “Realities of Collaborative IP in Africa.” It was helpfully mentioned that Africa is not a country (this Leo has personally disavowed several Californians of such misinformation), and that innovation in Africa is largely not “frontier innovation” – but rather it is borne of basic necessities that speak to the daily struggles of Africans, such as transporting water. This Leo points to the M-Pesa mobile money transfer system, replicas of which are still largely (and frustratingly) not available in Developed countries, as a ground-breaking system worthy of the “frontier innovation” label.  M-Pesa was not itself patented, but there are currently hundreds (literally) of US patent applications directed to aspects of mobile money transfer. A comment from the audience also pointed out that scores of US and European patents [but still far too few] have Africans as inventors.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, which will focus on scenarios developed by the OpenAIR project.

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