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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Kenyan Cattle Herdsboy Seeks Petty Patent Protection for “Lion Lights” Invention

turere-1-600x397 by WildlifeDirect

For those who may not know, IPKenya’s friend Dr Isaac Rutenberg is the voice behind a series of blog articles over at the Afro-IP blog dubbed “Diary of A Patent Lawyer in Kenya”. In his latest entry, he explains that he was “helping a 14-year old Kenyan attempt to secure IP rights after he had designed a system useful in rearing domestic livestock as well as in wildlife conservation.” He further discloses: “At our inventor’s [the 14-year old Kenyan’s] request, and with the guidance of a local wildlife conservation group, we prepared and filed a Utility Model Certificate application.”

This blogger is strongly convinced that the Utility Model (UM) application in question is in respect of the “Lion Lights” invention by young Richard Turere and supported by WildlifeDirect, in particular CEO, Dr. Paula Kahumbu.

Earlier this year, the Daily Nation published a story about a 13 year old boy Richard Turere: “the young Maasai boy who figured out how to scare off lions by irritating them with flash lights.” According to WildlifeDirect, a local wildlife conservation group, Turere was discovered while the group was working on a project to find new ways to reduce human lion conflict in the Kitengela area just south of the Nairobi National Park in Kenya.

Turere’s invention was born out of a necessity to protect his family’s cattle herd from carnivorous predators, especially lions since they lived right on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. Turere is said to have used his knowledge of lions’ fear of flashing lights to devise an automated lighting system made up of torch bulbs, a box, switches, an old car battery and a solar panel. According to reports, Turere’s lights are “designed to flicker on and off intermittently, thus tricking the lions into believing that someone was moving around carrying a flashlight”.

Lion Lights Invention Richard Turere Wildlife Direct

It is reported that “since Turere rigged up his “Lion Lights,” his family has not lost any livestock to the wild beasts, to the great delight of his father and astonishment of his neighbours.” This invention has become very popular and “around 75 “Lion Light” systems have so far been rigged up around Kenya”. With the support of WildlifeDirect, Turere has presented his invention at the well known TED Conference in 2013 and obtained a scholarship to one of Kenya’s top private preparatory schools.

Comment:

Right off the bat, this blogger was pleased with some of the the comments in the original Daily Nation story about Lion Lights where a couple of ordinary Kenyans wondered whether Turere had obtained patent protection for his invention.

Lion Lights Invention DN comments

These comments demonstrate an increased awareness of intellectual property, its value and the importance of securing IP rights.

Secondly, I salute Dr Rutenberg and his team over at CIPIT for the good work they are doing in helping Kenyans like Turere to identify, understand, protect and promote their IP rights using the various IP systems available in Kenya.