Monday, 7 July 2014

Bilateral IP office programmes: The UK IPO can help

This month’s IP connect, newsletter published by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), provides food for thought, not least on a matter which this Leo mooted here last May. 

They are:
(1) Two patent examiners from the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO) shadowed their counterparts at the UK IPO last month. [This is expected since both have commenced a two-year pilot on the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) initiative

Here is how the UK IPO summarised SIPO’s visit: “…The examiners compared searches and examinations made by the two offices of equivalent applications, and found that the similarities in tools, techniques and approach were far more striking than any differences.

When our guests weren’t comparing casework they received presentations and discussions on other aspects of the IPO’s work, including the patent publishing process and our opinions and mediation services. The SIPO examiners reported that they were impressed with the work of the IPO, a sentiment which was reciprocated by our own examiners.”

Source: here
(2) The second, albeit not a UK IPO initiative, is that the UK IPO hosted two rising Thai IP academics: Paramee Kerativitayanan and Napasa Cheydet. Both were the winners of the Young Thai IP Law Ambassador Award 2013, an academic competition run by the British Council in partnership with several major law firms and universities. [Well, we already know (again, also mentioned here) that the Thai Government would, more likely than not, gladly welcome and/or support this sort of initiative]

The newsletter further explains: “The Young Thai IP Law Ambassador initiative raises awareness of the legal and cultural issues around IP with the younger generation. It also looks to create an informal network for university students with a strong interest in IP. Participants have to go through a grueling selection process involving essays, interviews and mock court hearings. The winning duo will undertake a two-week visit to the UK and participate in various activities at leading intellectual property establishments, including judicial and academic bodies, top private law firms, and of course the IPO.”
First, Afro-IP understands that these collaborative initiatives form part of the UK Government’s international IP policy, in particular, the UK IPO’s IP attaché scheme (programme) targeting key export markets. [This programme doesn’t yet cover the African continent but this Leo plans to generally look into it in a future post. In comparison to others, one could argue that the UK's stance on IP in least-developed countries (LDCs) is pro-development] The idea behind the programme is that since the BRIC and ASEAN countries are the emerging lucrative markets for UK plc, it is desirable for their IP regimes to be conducive for UK IP rights holders. 
Secondly, the “Young Thai IP Law Ambassador Award” (YTIPAA) is, indeed, very interesting: among others, it made this Leo wonder if 'certain' African countries might benefit from creating specialist courts to deal with specialist matters such as IP, and whether leading IP law firms, universities or public bodies, and IP-reliant private sector organisations in Africa should attempt to put something together.[Afro Leo is not naive to the fact that the African continent is home to 70% of the LDCs and that most of their IP offices need to come up to a level so as to make certain assistance meaningful. Thus, he says that any ideas for capacity building should take these factors into account]

Third, this Leo appears to have somewhat guessed right, last May, when he commented that he won’t be surprised if the UK IPO was already carrying out (formally or informally) an initiative similar to what he was proposing for African countries. Now that we know (or to be precise: this Leo now knows) that the UK IPO can do it, 'certain 'African countries may want to consider a similar initiative with them or others - if WIPO is not already covering it.

As always, readers are invited to comment on what is currently happening in a particular African country or region, if any, and/or what should be done.

Coverage of the launch of the YTIPAA in 2010 is here and here
Nottingham Law School's coverage of YTIPAA here
Past winner of YTIPAA now at Queen Mary, University of London here

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