Genetic Resources Access and Benefit-Sharing: Revisiting KWS-Novozymes Deal for Endorois, Baringo County

minority rights group p1040091

In our previous blogpost here, we discussed an agreement between Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and global biotech firm Novozymes A/S entered into in May 2007 entitling Denmark-based Novozymes to access and exploit for commercial purposes genetic resources, enzymes and micro-organisms within national parks, national reserves and other protected areas within Kenya.

In a recent media report, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Environment William Kiprono has urged the Baringo County government to ‘demand full disclosure of all the money from the royalties deal.’ Kiprono reportedly said that the micro-organisms collected from Lake Bogoria ‘should have been of great benefit to the community’ and that ‘the county government should revisit to see if the amount paid to the community living around the lake is commensurate with the billions of shillings the bio-tech industries are getting from the enzymes.’

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Recap of 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2015 #GESKenya2015

6th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) Nairobi Kenya 2015 July Victor Nzomo Delegate

In a previous post here, this blogger announced that among the topics to be discussed at the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was the protection of intellectual capital with a sharp focus on intellectual property (IP). In addition to the IP Workshop on the first day, there was a Creative Economy Workshop on the second day. According to this workshop’s introduction, the creative industries (arts, entertainment, fashion) are attractive to many young people but few understand the business behind these industries and how to tap the creative economy to give them returns. On the workshop’s panel was a group of successful creatives who are turning the creative arts into sources of revenue, jobs and wealth creation.

In addition to the above, this blogpost will profile some of the top products and services pitched during the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I Competition at GES which recorded over 790 applications from 74 countries in the sectors of agriculture, energy, healthcare, and information communication technology.

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International Women’s Day: Celebrating African Women Leaders in Intellectual Property

Angélique Kidjo won her 2nd Grammy Award in 2015. The world renowned Beninoise singer-songwriter is Vice President of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). CISAC is the umbrella body for copyright societies worldwide.

Angélique Kidjo won her 2nd Grammy Award in 2015. The world renowned Beninoise singer-songwriter is Vice President of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). CISAC is the umbrella body for copyright societies worldwide.

Celebrated globally on 8th March, this year’s International Women’s Day highlights the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments 20 years ago that sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights. The official United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2015 is “Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity: Picture It!”

“When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all” – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for International Women’s Day 2015.

To mark this year’s International Women’s Day (#IWD2015), this blogger has compiled a list of some of the (influential) women (leaders) in intellectual property (IP) from Kenya and throughout English-speaking Africa. The women listed below (in no particular order) are primarily drawn from IP offices, academia, non-governmental organisations and the IP legal fraternity.

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ARIPO States Not Yet Ready for WIPO Budapest Treaty on Patents Involving Micro-organisms

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Recently, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in collaboration with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) held a seminar dubbed “Sub–regional seminar on the promotion and understanding of multilateral treaties in the field of patents: Paris Convention, Budapest Treaty and Patent Law Treaty (PLT)” hosted at the ARIPO Headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The focus of this blogpost is on the some of the issues arising around the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure.

As many may know, the Budapest Treaty was concluded in 1977 and has been open to States party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). As at March 15, 2014, 79 States were party to the Treaty. Interestingly, there are only three African countries that have signed the Treaty, namely Tunisia, Morocco and South Africa – none of whom are ARIPO member states.

As many may know, the Treaty was intended to aid in disclosure requirement under patent law where the invention involves a microorganism or the use of a microorganism. Such inventions relate primarily to the food and pharmaceutical fields. Since such disclosure is not possible in writing, it can only be effected by the deposit, with a specialized institution, of a sample of the microorganism.
It is in order to eliminate the need to deposit in each country in which protection is sought, that the Treaty provides that the deposit of a microorganism with any “international depositary authority” suffices for the purposes of patent procedure before the national patent offices of all of the contracting States and before any regional patent office (if such a regional office declares that it recognizes the effects of the Treaty). The European Patent Office (EPO), the Eurasian Patent Organization (EAPO) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) have made such declarations.

According to ARIPO’s press statement here, Director General Fernando dos Santos in his opening remarks “lamented the insignificant role that Africa is playing in global IP systems despite the fact that nearly every African state has enabling laws to facilitate its better placement in the global IP transactions and indicators.”
Dos Santos reportedly challenged member states to find their way into IP filings noting that according to the World Intellectual Property Indicators 2014, of the over 2 million patent lodgments made in 2013, Africa’s share was a mere 0.6% ─ with most of these 0.6% filings made in Africa emanating from the industrialized countries through the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

With that background in mind, this blogger suspects that most ARIPO member states
may not be ready to implement a Treaty such as the Budapest Treaty at present. Taking the Kenyan scenario for instance, local patent applications are very few and whilst Kenya may have no problem with the Treaty per se, it would be a cumbersome, expensive venture. For the foreseeable future, the real beneficiaries of the system under Budapest Treaty would be the developed countries since they remain ardent users of the patent system. Judging from the 3 countries that are signatories to the treaty, it is clear that capacity is a big impediment.

To highlight this issue of capacity, let us consider the “international depositary authority” provision under the Treaty. What the Treaty calls an “international depositary authority” is a scientific institution – typically a “culture collection” – which is capable of storing microorganisms. Such an institution acquires the status of “international depositary authority” through the furnishing by the contracting State in the territory of which it is located of assurances to the Director General of WIPO to the effect that the said institution complies and will continue to comply with certain requirements of the Treaty.

In this connection, it is important to note that there is no institution in Africa that has been recognised under the Treaty as a  “international depositary authority” whereas they are currently 42 such authorities in other countries worldwide including: seven in the United Kingdom, three in the Russian Federation, in the Republic of Korea, and in the United States of America, two each in Australia, China, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, and in Spain, and one each in Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

Initially Kenya proposed to sign the Treaty and had identified two depositaries i.e Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) however the main challenge seemed to be a lack of capacity in proper handling of the samples and the means to maintain the cultures or strains to the required standards.
Not to mention the increased costs and logistics involved in the coordination between the IP office and the depositaries.

Therefore this blogger reckons that Kenya and other ARIPO member states need to focus more on growing Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) in terms of utility model applications and other connected areas of industrial property protection. Thereafter, as the innovation space grows, one expects that there would be greater demand and push from local inventors in Kenya and other ARIPO member states to join the Budapest Treaty so to enjoy it’s benefits.

A Tale of Two Danish Bio-Tech Firms, Protection of Genetic Resources and 2.3 Million Shillings in Royalties for Lake Bogoria Enzyme

Lake Bogoria Bio-Enzyme Royalties Kenya Baringo County 2014

The Baringo County has confirmed recent media reports that residents living around Lake Bogoria in Baringo County have received the sum of KES 2.3 Million in royalties from a Dutch bio-enzyme company. According to Baringo County news, this royalties deal comes after “successful negotiation between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Novozyme – a foreign company that took an enzyme drawn from a Bacteria in Lake Bogoria hot springs about 15 years ago”. It is reported that the royalties will be partly used as bursaries for over 200 local students while part of the funds will be deployed to fund other development projects in the area. However, local civil society organisations have reportedly demanded full disclosure of all the money from the royalties deal.

This blogpost uses the recent news from Baringo County to examine the protection of genetic resources in Kenya, taking into account Kenya’s new domestic and international rights and obligations in this area.

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South African Firm Accused by Kenya of Patent Rights Breach

The Daily Nation reports that a South African company has been blamed for selling semen from the Boran bull, a Kenyan cattle breed by purporting it is a patented product of that country.

When questioned by the Nation, the Livestock Minister Dr. Mohamed Kuti said that the move was in violation of the country’s patent rights since the Boran cattle is an indigenous breed of pastoral communities in Northern Kenya. The minister also said that the RSA company was working in cahoots with a local ranch.

Background:

Genus: Bos
Species: Indicus
Breed: Boran

The Boran cattle is described as a sub-tropically adapted Kenyan breed for natural beef.

Genetic studies at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have revealed that the genetic composition of the Kenya Boran is unique. The Boran now found in Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Australia and USA originated from genetic exports of Kenyan Boran cattle between the 1970’s and 1990’s. The breed in Zimbabwe and South Africa came from embryos exported from Ol Pejeta Ranch at Nanyuki, Kenya, during 1994 and 2000.

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