Access to Medicines in the Developing World: No to Evergreening in Novartis Case and No to Patent Linkage in Patricia Asero Case

As part of the World IP Day 2013 activities in Kenya, CIPIT will host a special intellectual property (IP) debate organised by the Aids Law Project (ALP) between students drawn from the local universities. The topic of this debate is: how the Novartis and Patricia Asero court decisions affect public health in developing countries. Although this blogger will not be able to attend the debate in person, what follows are a few ruminations on this debate topic.

The Supreme Court of India judgment in the Novartis case and the High Court of Kenya judgment in the Patricia Asero case seem to have one common consequence: making pharmaceutical companies very unhappy. Both these cases have placed the spotlight on the generic drugs industry. In the developing world, where few people can afford original patented medicines, many opt for generic versions of the same drugs that are sold for as little as 1/10th of the price of the original product. Therefore, what generics companies do essentially is to replicate drugs that are no longer protected by patents. This leaves the pharmaceutical companies with two main issues to deal with: Firstly how do they “extend” patent protection for their well-known drugs? Secondly how do they ensure strict IP enforcement in respect to their patented drugs? The first issue is illustrated in the Novartis case and the second issue appears in the Patricia Asero case.

Read the rest of this article over at the CIPIT Law Blog here.

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World Intellectual Property Day – April 26 2013: Some Planned Activities in Kenya

WORLD IP DAY 2013 POSTER WIPO

Twelve years ago, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) created the “World Intellectual Property (IP) Day” as an event intended to “raise awareness of the role of intellectual property in our daily lives, and to celebrate the contribution made by innovators and creators to the development of societies across the globe”.

Last year, this blog covered the World IP Day events in Kenya and highlighted some of the key IP developments at the time. (See here)

This year, the theme for World IP Day is “Creativity: The Next Generation. How do you see the future? Who will be the next game-changers?”

The Aids Law Project (ALP) have lined up a number of interesting events to mark World IP Day 2013:

On Thursday 25th April 2013, you are invited to Strathmore University (Room 7 -MSB Building, 2nd Floor):

9:00-9:30:
Welcome Address by Jacinta Nyachae of Aids Law Project (ALP) & Isaac Rutenberg of Strathmore Law School Centre for IP and Information Technology Law (CIPIT)
9:30-10:00:
Key Note Address by. Mr. David Njuguna, Chief Patent Examiner at Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).
10:00-11:00:
Inter-university IP Debate
Debate Topic: “How do the Novartis and Patricia Asero court decisions affect public health in developing countries?”
Moderators: Paul Ogendi, Sarah Ochwada
11:00-12:00:
Closing Remarks – Anne Gathumbi

On Friday 26th April 2013, you are all invited to Railways Club for a World IP Day Picnic organised by ALP:

9:00-9:30:
Arrival and Registration
9:00-9:30:
Welcome Address by Jacinta Nyachae of Aids Law Project (ALP)
9:30-9:45:
Brief of the activities of the day by Kate Kiama (ALP)
10:00-12:00:
Games and Activities
12:00-12:30:
Snacks and Q & A
12:30-12:45:
Closing Remarks and Award Ceremony

IPKenya is also aware that the State Agencies in charge of IP have organised some events for World IP Day. The Kenya Patents and Trademarks office (KIPI), the Kenya Copyright Office (KECOBO), the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) with the support of the World IP Organization (WIPO) have organised a public event at the Mount Kenya University Towers in Nairobi Kenya from 09h00 to 12h30. The full details are available below:
World IP Day 2013 Kenya KECOBO ACA KIPI WIPO

All are invited. Please spread the word! IPKenya will update everyone on any other World IP Day activities/events taking place in Kenya.

L’Oréal Acquires Nice & Lovely Trademark in Multi-Billion Shilling Deal

Media reports (here, here and here) indicate that the world’s largest multinational cosmetics company L’Oréal has acquired Kenya’s Interconsumer Products Ltd’s flagship Nice & Lovely brands, in a multi-million dollar acquisition reported this past week.

L’Oréal opened shop in Nairobi in late 2011 and has for the past 18 months been in talks with Interconsumer Products Ltd for a buyout deal. To facilitate the conclusion of the deal, Interconsumer Products Ltd transferred the beauty division to a new company dubbed Interworld Cosmetics, which has now been acquired by L’Oreal. The French based cosmetics giant has now renamed the new business Interbeauty Products.

This blogger salutes Interconsumer Products Managing Director Mr. Paul Kinuthia. We have all read the story of how Mr. Kinuthia grew his business from a modest sole proprietorship in the late 1990s to a major cosmetics manufacturer in East Africa. This success story of Interconsumer Products Ltd is even more significant and instructive when viewed from an intellectual property (IP) perspective.

The mark NICE and LOVELY was registered in favour of Interconsumer Products Ltd at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) in 2002 but had been in use by Interconsumer since 1999. From this date onwards, Interconsumer has been actively policing its intellectual property rights in the NICE AND LOVELY mark particularly as its products begun to gain prominence not just in Kenya but in neighbouring countries, particularly Uganda.

In 2004, Interconsumer moved to the Commercial Division of Uganda’s Commercial Court to seeking restrain Nice & Soft Investments Ltd., its servants and/or agents and/or distributors from manufacturing, selling or exposing for sale or in any way dealing in cosmetics using the names “Nice & Soft”. This case was reported as Interconsumer Products Ltd V Nice & Soft Investments Ltd (2003) Miscellaneous Application No. 256 Of 2004 (available here and here). In this case Interconsumer alleged, inter alia that the respondents without any form of authority were selling cosmetics goods in Uganda under the mark “Nice & Soft” and had attempted to register a trademark under the said names to the detriment of Interconsumer. Therefore, Interconsumer argued that it’s trademark was in danger of being wasted and irreparably damaged by virtue of such use by the respondent who is selling inferior goods similar to those of Interconsumer. On the question of whether there was trademark infringement, the court noted that the respondent’s application for registration was before the Registrar of Trademarks prior to the filing by Interconsumer of the suit which suit does not aver that it is a challenge to registration. On the question of whether there was passing off, the court found that the Interconsumer pleaded the ingredients of passing off, namely the acquired reputation. The actions taken by Interconsumer to protect its NICE AND LOVELY trademark in Uganda are instructive and must be borne in mind when considering the amount L’Oréal has just paid to acquire this well-known mark.

However before this acquisition deal, many will remember that in Interconsumer had previously locked horns with L’Oréal in both the Ugandan and Kenyan courts over the NICE AND LOVELY trademark. In the Ugandan case reported as L’Oreal and Another vs Interconsumer Products Ltd Application no. 13 of 2006 (available here), L’Oreal moved to the Commercial Division of the High Court to review the decision of the Registrar of Trademarks setting aside opposition proceedings and granting registration of two trademarks, SMOOTH & LOVELY and NICE and LOVELY applied for by Interconsumer.

In the Kenyan case, L’Oréal once more moved to the High Court to challenge the decision of the Registrar of Trademarks in rejecting its opposition of the registration of the mark NICE & LOVELY HERBAL OIL MOISTURIZER by Interconsumer. In a ruling delivered last year on 21st February, the High Court dismissed L’Oréal’s appeal against the decision of the Registrar rejecting L’Oreal’s opposition to the registration of the mark by Interconsumer. The court agreed with the Registrar on several important grounds including that the mark NICE & LOVELY was not similar to DARK AND LOVELY (owned by L’Oréal) and that there could be no confusion as defined under section 14 and 15 of the Trade Marks Act. The Court also agreed with the Registrar’s conclusion that L’Oreal had failed to show that its trademark was well known in Kenya. Furthermore, the Court agreed with the Registrar’s finding that the respondent had used the mark NICE and LOVELY since 1st March 1999 and the appellant had not tendered any evidence to show that it had objected to the use of the mark in the last five years. Therefore, the common law doctrine of honest concurrent use was applicable therefore both NICE & LOVELY and DARK AND LOVELY marks could co-exist in the Trademarks Register. A detailed synopsis of this unreported case is available over at the afroip blog here.

Viewed against the above backdrop, L’Oréal’s acquisition of NICE & LOVELY is an important lesson for trademark owners not only in Kenya but throughout the East African region. Interconsumer’s investment in registration and enforcement of its (IP) rights was a crucial factor in sealing this major buy-out deal.

Plant Breeders vs Farmers: SADC Draft Protocol for the Protection of New Plant Varieties

SADC Conference

Plant Breeders rights became an accepted branch of intellectual property with the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) in 1961.

The Convention protects the variety of the plant not the plant itself therefore the subject matter of protection is the variety and not the whole plant. A variety is a new plant that is distinct from any other variety that is known to agriculture or published in any botanical literature. A variety is ‘known to agriculture’ if man has cultivated it. A variety is ‘known to botanical literature’ if it has been recorded. Therefore any person who discovers a new plant variety that is wild, that man can use or domesticate, can apply to the competent authority for a Grant of a Plant Breeder’s Right.

The UPOV Convention 1961 was subsequently amended in 1978 and 1991. Kenya was the first country in Africa to domesticate the UPOV Convention. Kenya’s Seed and Plant Varieties Act Chapter 326 is modeled on UPOV 1961. South Africa’s Plant Breeders’ Rights Act 1976 is modeled on UPOV 1978. For a practical look at the protection of plant breeders rights in South Africa, this blogger has previously discussed the recent High Court decision in Voor-Groenberg Nursery CC and Another v Colors Fruit South Africa (Pty) Ltd [2012].

Recently, it has been widely reported (see: here, here and here) that over 80 civil society organisations from the Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) region and beyond have prepared a detailed submission to the SADC Secretariat calling for the rejection of the SADC Draft Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. One of the key contentions raised by these civil society groups was that the Draft Protocol is modeled on the “one-size-fits-all” UPOV 1991. UPOV 1991 abolishes the farmers’ privilege in UPOV 1978 which allowed farmers to use the harvested material from plant varieties as propagating material but this privilege can be withdrawn at any time. Looking at Article 27 of the Draft Protocol, the farmer’s exception is limited in scope as it “only allows an exception for subsistence farmers.”

Furthermore, all countries acceding to UPOV 1991 were required to protect at least 15 plant genera and species for the first 10 years, whereas the draft protocol requires protection of all plant genera and species and does not provide for any transition period.

UPOV 1991 also introduces the concept of an essentially derived variety (EDV), which is expressly excluded from plant variety protection. This concept was intended to address the problem of new breeders that would modify an existing variety and seek to have such a variety protected under plant breeders rights. With the concept of EDV, any plant variety claimed to be new but whose essential characteristics or features are similar to existing plant varieties shall not be deemed to be new. The same concept of EDV can be found at Article 26(3) of the Draft Protocol.

Thus, the Draft Protocol, like UPOV 1991, is perceived as a move to strengthen the hands of the breeder to the detriment of the farmer by allowing greater privatisation of seeds and plant material.

The fundamental question which arises in this context is the role of IP in food security. The exceptions made for farmers are intended to be the last safety valve for the developing countries as well as a key balancing factor on the issue of food security. However, poor farmers under UPOV 1991 are required to buy seeds even for subsistence farming. The consequence is that farmers are now using low quality seeds for planting because they can no longer access the original seed. This has led to cases of low yield, famine and malnutrition all partially blamed on IP system.

In the early 1990s, plant breeding was a thriving industry involving not only by individuals but also multinationals like Monsanto, pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and even national parastatals like the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). This period also saw the emergence of genetic use restriction technologies (GURTS) popularised by Monsanto. For instance, the one generational seed also know as ‘terminator seeds’ were seeds that were inserted with a gene that meant farmers could only plant the seeds once, thereafter it would only produce weeds.

This campaign to strengthen plant breeders rights and curb infringement by farmers, in the early 1990s culminated in the 1994 TRIPS Agreement of the WTO. Article 27 paragraph 3(b) expressly stipulates that all member states shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patent or by an effective sui generis system or a combination thereof. Sui generis in this context has been interpreted to mean either UPOV 78 or UPOV 91 or any other effective system.

Civil society organisations opposed to the draft SADC protocol argue that this flexibility in Article 27(3) of TRIPS has been removed without taking into account the different types and needs of farming systems within the SADC region. This blogger is persuaded by the argument by civil society and refers to TRIPS which makes it optional for WTO members to either opt for UPOV or a sui generis system for protection. This blogger argues that given the socio-economic differences among SADC member countries, a sui- generis mechanism would be better suited for plant variety protection within the 15 member states of SADC. The process of developing a sui generis system would allow for wider consultations between plant breeders and farmers with the aim of arriving at a mutually satisfactory balance between the various rights and interests involved.

Given the legally binding nature of protocols generally, this blogger argues that SADC member countries must seriously consider the submissions of the civil society before deciding on whether to adopt or reject the Protocol. Once the Draft Protocol is ratified by two thirds of the member states, it becomes a legally binding document committing all SADC Member States to the objectives and specific procedures stated within it.

To Photocopy or Not to Photocopy: The Role of the Reproduction Rights Society in Kenya

photocopier-lg

One of the local newspapers recently published an article titled: “Can’t someone stop this photocopying madness?”, which raises the alarm over high levels of illegal photocopying especially in tertiary institutions of learning, namely our universities. The writer explains:

We were taught in classes that photocopying a book without the requisite permission of the copyright holder would be against the law, except for the very strict exemptions made on the copyright page of the book. Yet at student centres and other photocopying areas in institutions of higher learning, the exact opposite of this lesson goes on in the open.
Students photocopy entire books. Some shop owners photocopy books in advance and store them for sale. With such scenarios, what does the student learn? That the lessons on copyright law are a mere hot air?

Recently, a news feature was published by Al Jazeera titled: “Photocopying courts India campus controversy” which was premised on the on-going Indian High Court case of Oxford University Press and Others vs Rameshwari Photocopy Services and Delhi University. In this case, Cambridge University Press (CUP), Oxford University Press (OUP) and Taylor & Francis, the three of the world’s largest publishers have filed a case in court seeking to stop the reproductions of their work into study packs and course packs for students.

Authors and publishers all over the world contend that they fully support free access to information. But they have come to realise that their contended principle of free flow of information must not be confused with the idea of the flow of free information. After all, books, journals, newspapers etc. cost money to produce and the same must apply to the right to reproduce them, particularly through photocopying. The only way authors and publishers have been able to deal with this situation has been through collective administration of rights. It is widely agreed that no single author or publisher can effectively police the use or abuse of its bundle of rights throughout a whole national territory let alone the world at large. Thus, collective administration is a solution devised to overcome the many difficulties which individuals authors and other rights holders face in the enforcement of their rights separately by themselves in the face of fast-growing technologies of the modern world.

In the case of reproduction rights, one of the practical, instrumental and utlity organs in the process of this collective administration is the reprographic rights organisation (RRO). Simply put, the RRO aims to deal with both unauthorised reproduction of copyright works for internal use as well as for the market place. This reproduction is dealt with through licensing. The RRO is therefore an intermediary organisation. It brings the rights holders in contact with the users. It facilitates understanding between the owners and users of copyright rights. Most importantly, it negotiates with, and grants licenses to the users to use the works of authors on the one hand; and on the other, it ensures that authors and publishers are justly remunerated for their works and investments.

This blogger believes that in both the Indian and Kenya scenarios highlighted in the media reports above, the RRO is clearly missing from the picture yet the latter plays an important role in striking the right balance between the rights of the copyright holders on the one hand, and the interests of the users on the other hand. This blogger is indeed surprised that the reprographic society in India (IRRO) has not sought to be enjoined in the Delhi University court case yet it is an interested party given the issues for determination by the judges in that case.

KOPIKEN Launch Collective Management Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya

Meanwhile, here in Kenya, we have the Reproduction Rights Society of Kenya (KOPIKEN) which is fully functional but seems not to have attained the critical mass in terms of licensees for reproduction of printed works yet all indications are that the photocopying business is booming in most urban centres countrywide. Regarding the universities in Kenya, this blogger would be correct in stating that over 95% of them are not licensed by KOPIKEN yet these institutions are actively engaged in photocopying both for internal use and also as indirect commercial activity.

Therefore, the time has come for KOPIKEN to assert itself on behalf of all the local and foreign authors, publishers and other rightsholders in the print medium whom they duly represent. Borrowing from the situation in India, this bloggers contends that time has come for KOPIKEN to consider litigation as a means of ensuring compliance with the copyright law, deterring infringers and creating jurisprudence in this silent area of the law. In respect to the last point of jurisprudence, litigation by KOPIKEN against one of the local universities would also allow the courts to revisit the questions surrounding the exceptions and limitations (fair dealing) provisions contained in section 28 of the Copyright Act, particularly as they relate to educational institutions, libraries and archives.

Intellectual Property and Outdoor Advertising in Kenya

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Businesses often spend much time and money to create a successful advertising campaign. It is important to protect your intellectual property (IP) assets, so that others do not unfairly copy or free-ride upon your innovative creations.” – Lien Verbauwhede, WIPO.

Like in many parts of the world, the advertising sector in Kenya is the new battle-ground upon which businesses compete to creatively and uniquely pass on relevant information to customers so as to facilitate and positively influence their buying decisions. It is generally agreed that for an advertisement to be effective, it must first get noticed, and then be remembered long enough to persuasively communicate the unique selling proposition of a product or service, so as to make potential customers into actual ones. Outdoor advertising, in particular, is considered a cost effective way of giving messages the maximum exposure. Outdoor advertising includes billboards, outdoor signs, printed messaging, street banners, posters, brochures etc.

This blogger has noted an increase in the number of creative new outdoor advertisements by both medium-sized and large companies leading to a surge in the number of billboards along streets, highways in urban areas. Billboards are so far the preferred medium for outdoor advertising. there are several types of intellectual property rights that are involved in billboard advertising. For instance, most of the creative content on the billboard (writing, pictures, art, graphics, lay-out) may be protected by copyright along with any advertising slogans which may also be protected by trademark law.
In addition, industrial design law may be crucial for protection of billboards. Industrial designs cover the three dimensional form of billboards provided that such form gives a special appearance to a product of industry and can serve as a pattern for a product of industry. In the case of ENG Kenya Ltd v Magnate Ventures Ltd (2009), both the plaintiff and defendant carried on business in the outdoor advertising sector and the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had infringed on the plaintiff’s design for ‘suburban signs’. The court held that the registration of the plaintiffs’ design at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) was proof enough that the design was unique and capable of registration. The plaintiff could therefore claim exclusive right to the design. The court further stated that the defendant copied the plaintiffs’ design in bad faith.

For printing and branding companies, it is important to be very conscious of IP issues in their various advertising solutions. In this regard, the case of Alternative Media Ltd v Safaricom Ltd (2004) is instructive. The plaintiff, who is in the business of advertising graphic designing and media communication solutions, sued the defendant claiming copyright infringement on the plaintiff’s design that it had submitted to the defendant as a proposal to be used on the 250 airtime scratch cards. The court held that the defendant had indeed infringed on the plaintiff’s rights under copyright law because the design they used on their airtime scratch cards was substantially the same as the one submitted by the plaintiff to them as a proposal.

Another exciting area of outdoor advertising is transit advertising. This blogger has previously highlighted the Triple P Media project which involves advertising fused with high-quality custom-made audio and audio-visual content playing in public service vehicles (PSVs) countrywide, in addition to other public places like supermarkets, malls, banking halls, bars, clubs, restaurants etc. There is also the promising innovation by FlashCast Ventures, who have developed a method of scrolling advertisements via LCD displays installed in PSVs. These LCD screens are fitted with global positioning system devices hence messages are programmed to be location specific. This means it is possible to preset a commercial on a supermarket to run when the bus is within its proximity and broadcast special offers, promotions, and goods available. Although geo-local transit advertising may not meet the threshold of absolute novelty required for patent protection in Kenya, there may be other aspects of FlashCast that may be patentable or eligible for industrial design and utility model protection.