Monday 17 June 2013


Afro-IP at IPKat's 10th anniversary: Thoughts and afterthoughts......

Can you see this Leo on the left?
This Leo was glad to join the IP community to celebrate IPKat's 10th birthday party at Allen & Overy last Wednesday. The event was packed full of IP enthusiasts (practitioners, scholars and so on) from the UK and beyond with distinguished guests including notable members of the senior judiciary. The agenda focused on topical IP, and other related rights, issues in the digital age presented by the IPKat team.

He picked interest in some of the Eurocentric issues discussed or views shared at the event which, to his mind, serve as useful lessons when any other continental IP regime and/or institution is contemplated. These include complexities and questions surrounding whether important points of law or matters should be decided or handled by national courts or institutions or by a supranational entity and the impact of language and cultural differences.

One of the panellists on the panel discussion session was WIPO's Director General (WIPO DG), Francis Gurry. Fearing that Mr Gurry may escape soon after the event or engaged by others thereafter, this Leo jumped on the opportunity to put the following questions (as relevant to this blog, here and here) to him:

(1) What is WIPO's position on the establishment of PAIPO?
This Leo understands from the response that WIPO is playing a supporting role behind the scenes and that the main work of the new organisation would be policy-based. In his response, Mr Gurry also recognised and appreciated the role of OAPI and ARIPO but felt that more can and should be done if the continent is looked at as a whole.

(2) What are WIPO's priorities for developing countries - especially, in the African continent?

Mr Gurry started off with an upbeat message on the economic growth seen across the African continent. He then went on to tell the audience that WIPO continues to support African countries with IP technical assistance in areas that would stimulate their local economies such as in agriculture and technology (with a focus on access). This Leo also picked up from his initial response to Sir Richard David Arnold's question on the state of the global IP regime that WIPO's role, holistically, has significantly diminished due to, among others, bilateral arrangements. (Afro Leo wants to know whether this effectively means that WIPO has no influence across Africa)

Further conversation....
Luckily, Mr Gurry joined most of the Kats and other distinguished guests for a post-event dinner where this Leo furthered his conversation with him. This Leo was briefly told of the work and structure of the Africa Bureau and learned of, or perhaps confirmed, Tanzania's enthusiasm on the opportunities presented by IP regime as well as Kenya's rewards in the area of agriculture. Another point picked up from the chat between former Kat, Dr Nicola Searle (the Katonomist, as she then was) and Mr Gurry was that some countries are still in 'Transition' hence WIPO's dedicated support.

Further thoughts....
How Mr Gurry started his response to question 2 arouses one of those moments when this Leo often finds himself thinking deep about the correlation between economic development and IP (respect and enthusiasm about the latter). For example, China's WTO status depends on whose camp you are on but she surpassed the United States, a clear-cut developed country, in terms of IP fillings according to WIPO's report in 2012. Yet China is still perceived as lacking respect for IP. (Does it really mean anything tangible to have the most IP fillings in the world? As China becomes richer with increased admiration for quality, and more technologically advanced, would she end up becoming a staunch guardian and evangelist of IPRs like the U.S?) Finally, if this Leo had learned of the TRIPS deadline extension decision before now (see previous Afro-IP post here), he would have obtained the view of WIPO's DG as well.

Little Leo had a good time
Source: here 
This Leo was enriched at the event. He even managed to utilise the networking opportunity to get the thoughts of some IP practitioners and that of an IP judge (whom he is fond of) on a selfish matter - though the latter's view was a reality check. Most importantly, he is very grateful for the invitation and warm hospitality shown by his Kat friends (especially, his mentor and friend the IPKat himself, the AmeriKat, former Katonomist and Dr Birgit Clark). My fellow Leos would be glad to know that this Leo had a good time and felt like a Kat on the day.

Afro-IP wishes the IPKat blog many more anniversaries. Keep an eye on the IPKat blog for the informative but fun PowerPoint slides plus the recording from the IPKat's 10th birthday party.
Before you import plants into Kenya read this here
For fair trade and flower farms in Kenya, see here
Is IP a power tool for economic development & wealth creation? see here
IP and access to clean energy technologies in developing countries, see here
For the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, see here
Not everyone is a fan of the Unitary Patent system in Europe, see here



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17 June 2013 at 09:26 delete

Thanks, Kingsley, for your kind words about the IPKat's 10th birthday seminar.

For the record, Afro-IP celebrates its 10th birthday on 28 December 2117. Time to start planning for the party?

17 June 2013 at 09:38 delete

Thank you for posting, Kingsley. You made us feel as though we attended too.Indeed, your "Kat experience" will come in handy in planning the Afro-IP anniversary party.

17 June 2013 at 14:41 delete

You are very welcome Jeremy. Perhaps something sooner :-) I have been inspired, as always, by the IPKat.

Hi Chijioke, thanks. Yes, it also feels nice to be a Kat (at least for a day or so, if one can keep up with it) :-)