23 December, 2008

Christmas break

As reported by Afro IP here, with the Parliament having gone on recess last week marks the end of the road for the Anti Counterfeit Bill 2008.

Hopefully the break and the new year will inject fresh ideas to take the process to a another level other than debating on whether to distinguish counterfeit medicine from other counterfeit goods.

As suggested by the Afro IP post, it may be necessary to decide whether to orientate the debate on how to tackle the menace of counterfeits in a different direction such as amending the existing laws rather than coming up with another layer of law which comes with its own added baggage.

On that score IP Kenya would also like to take a deserved Christmas break until January next year.

We wish our readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

18 December, 2008

New malaria drug in the making?

The standard Newspaper reports that researchers at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) are on the verge of a major breakthrough in the fight against malaria. It is reported that research on a plant, phytolacca dodecandra, found in Turkana District promises to produce an effective pesticide against mosquitoes.

According to one of the researchers Pamela Were, field tests have proved that the plant can kill mosquitoes in all their life stages; for example, it kills the mosquito larvae within ten hours of exposure. The plant is very effective in low doses and the chemical extracted from the plant has potential to be used as a pesticide.

The research is in the final stages and the researchers expect to patent and licence the invention in the course of next year.

According to a wikipedia entry, the plant Phytolacca dodecandra is variously known as endod, Gopo Berry, or African soapberry and is a trailing shrub or climber native to Africa. The plant is cultivated mainly in Ethiopia where it is used as a soap and shampoo as well as a poison to stun fish. The plant is lethal to snail - a fact discovered by Ethiopian scientists . After an Ethiopian scientist demonstrated the plants potency to American scientists, they took out a patent (US 5252330), hoping to sell it as a biological control for the Zebra mussel, a pest in the Great Lakes of the US and Canada.

Hopefully the Kenyan scientists will not demonstrate or have not demonstrated the potency of their research to the American Scientists.

Singapore Treaty on Trade Marks to enter into force in March 2009

According to a WIPO press release, the Singapore Treaty on Trade Marks will come into force on 16th March 2009 following ratification by Australia on 16th December 2008. Australia becomes the tenth country to ratify the treaty to make it operational.

The release indicates that WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry, who coincidentally is Australian, welcomed this development saying, “the entry into force of the Singapore Treaty was good news for trademark owners around the world as it opened the way for the branded goods industry to register and manage trademark rights cost-effectively and efficiently.”

The Singapore Treaty was adopted by WIPO member states in Singapore in March 2006. The Treaty standardizes procedural aspects of trademark registration and licensing and enables owners of trademarks and national trademark authorities to take advantage of efficiencies in using modern communications technologies to process and manage evolving trademark rights.

Kenya signed the Treaty on 28th March 2006, but has not ratified it.

Key features of the treaty are that
· It recognises all types of marks, including non-traditional visible marks, such as holograms, three-dimensional marks, colour, position and movement marks, and non-visible marks, such as sound, olfactory or taste and feel marks. However the Treaty does not impose any obligations on Contracting Parties to (i) register new types of marks, or (ii) implement electronic filing systems or other automation systems
· It leaves Contracting Parties the freedom to choose the form and means of transmittal of communications and whether they accept communications on paper, communications in electronic form or any other form of communication. This has consequences on formal requirements for applications and requests, such as the signature on communications with the Office.
· It does not require authentication, certification or attestation of any signature on paper communications. However, Contracting Parties are free to determine whether and how they wish to implement a system of authentication of electronic communications.
· It provides for relief measures when an applicant or a holder has missed a time limit in an action for a procedure before the Office. Contracting Parties are required to make available, at their choice, at least the following relief measures: (1) extension of the time limit, (2) continued processing and (3) reinstatement of rights if the failure to meet the time limit was unintentional or occurred in spite of due care required by the circumstances.
· It provides for recording of trademark licenses, and establishes maximum requirements for the requests for recordal, amendment or cancellation of the recordal of a license.
· It creates an Assembly of the Contracting Parties.
· It introduces a degree of flexibility for the definition of details concerning administrative procedures to be implemented by national trade mark offices where it is anticipated that future developments in trade mark registration procedures and practice will warrant the amendments of those details.
· It has provisions for assisting developing and least developed countries (LDCs) with technical and technological support to enable them to take full advantage of the provisions of the Treaty.
AS of now no developing country or LDC has ratified the treaty, hopefully they will do so in the near future and take advantage of the technical and technological support envisaged in the treaty in order to modernise their trade mark registries, especially in terms of eletronic communication.

Summary of the treaty is available here.
The full treaty is available here

16 December, 2008

WIPO announces Strategic Change Program

A press release by WIPO indicates that following the approval by Member states of a revised program and budget on December 12, 2008 the Orgainization has initiated a comprehensive program of strategic change in the direction and work “to enable the Organization to respond more effectively to the rapidly evolving technological, cultural and geo-economic environment.”
The revised program and budge sets out nine strategic goals including-

.balanced evolution of the international normative framework for IP,
.facilitating use of IP for development,
.provision of premier global IP services,

.building respect for IP;
.developing global IP infrastructure;
.responsive communication;
.becoming the world reference source for IP information; and
.addressing IP in relation to global policy challenges, such as climate change, public health and food security.

The program under the direct supervision of the Director General, is dedicated to ensuring effective coordination of work to implement the WIPO Development Agenda and 22 posts will be created to address critical skills gaps in the Organization.

Geographical indications for Kenyan coffee

The current issue of WIPO magazine carries an article on some famous appellation of origin (a special kind of geographical indication (GI) consisting of a geographical name used on products which essentially derive certain quality or characteristic from the geographical region). The article gives examples of products such as the Parma ham from Italy, Tequila from Mexico and Feta cheese from Greece, which are identified by consumers using their geographical names.

Closer home and as reported in the Daily nation here, a seminar on GI sponsored by the French Embassy was held last week in Nairobi. The report indicates that in order to raise demand and possibly raise prices for Kenyan coffee in the international market the Government with the assistance of France plans to brand coffee according the respective regions of origin.

From French experience, the process of obtaining a geographical indication is long, first involving detailed scientific tests of the regions to demonstrate their uniqueness that gives rise to the distinctiveness of the products from those regions. Moreover, the relevant bodies need to be set up to administer the system and control use of the GI.

From the report, it appears that certain studies have already been undertaken in Nyeri and Kirinyaga districts where 178 samples were tested for their intensity, aroma, bitterness, acidity and other qualities. In addition, the legal framework is being worked out, and a draft Geographical Indications Bill is in the pipeline.

Previous post on GI branding for tea here