WIPOLex entry here
Industrial Property Office website here
Are the BRIC countries intensifying Africa’s dependent position in the global political economy? This was the question presented by Professor Ian Taylor yesterday at his presentation in Chicago.
This Little Leo had the privilege of attending the program, which was hosted by the University of St. Andrews, thanks to the graciousness of her little sister. (Her sister studied abroad there, and so took her along as ‘friend of an alum’ despite the topic not being on the top of her “interesting things to do on a Tuesday night” list.)
We are all very familiar with the “Africa Rising” language. On this blog alone, we’ve covered it many times: as early as a 2008 review of Vijay Mahajan’s book titled Africa Rising, a 2010 JIPLP article review, INTA’s Africa Rising initiative in 2012, an update on it in 2014, highlighting The Economist’s 2013 “Africa Rising” cover, WIPO’s 2013 announcement to open regional offices on the continent, and recently the EU and US desires to be part of the movement with their summits. Look at all this great stuff happening! Look at all the attention! Surely, Africa must be rising. Everyone says so, and after all, three people produce a tiger. Could we really all be wrong?
Yes, says Professor Taylor. Africa is not really rising. It is an illusion. This illusion is accepted by so many people because it is produced by applying economic measuring tools that work (or at least are presumed to work)* for developed countries to developing country economies. Namely, GDP growth is used as the measuring stick for development. However, Professor Taylor points out, GDP is computed using the location of value origin without considering where the value actually winds up. In the case of most African countries, the rising GDP numbers are triggered by exporting of commodities, raw resources whose true value is added and kept outside of the source countries.
Professor Taylor explained his point with some charts and graphs. One showed the mimicking shadow of Africa’s GDP against the global commodities market. The former is nearly completely reliant on the later. For the continent as a whole, 80% of all exports are commodities, for Western Africa, 90%; for Central, a whopping 98%. Because commodity prices are high and the commodities Africa has are in high demand, many African countries have increasing GDP numbers, which makes it look like they’re developing. To understand the real “growth” (or lack of it), Professor Taylor recommends using a different measuring tool called Genuine Savings. To compute genuine savings you use the following equation:
When this formula is used, none of the African countries on the Top 10 Growth Charts show positive numbers. Nigeria, for example, often hailed for its development, had GDP growth of 6.7% in 2012, but it’s Genuine Savings “growth” was -10.2%. Ouch. Even South Africa, the usual outlier with a comparatively diversified economy is not in clear water, showing 2012 GDP growth of 2.5%, it’s 2012 Genuine Savings growth was -0.9%. (Little Leo would like to point out a particularly interesting comment by Professor Taylor: Genuine Savings is actually the method of calculation preferred by the World Bank. Why isn’t it the standard?)
The scary part is this is not new. Africa has seen this before, particularly in the 1960s. (This is where everyone’s alarm bells should be going off.) This is how things were around the time that many countries were becoming independent. Commodity prices were high and Africa’s commodities were in high demand. Now, in this decade of jubilee celebrations, are we really just back where we started?
There is one difference this time, it’s not the former colonists finishing up the grabs they started back in the long lost years when the Brits were the prude ones. (eg.) The current biggest exporters of these commodities are BRIC countries. The time-frame when Africa’s “growth” started is the same time when BRIC countries became really interested in getting commodities from Africa.
Wait a minute. (Pause for Little Leo’s comments.) Aren’t the BRIC countries our friends, our brothers and sisters in the Global South? They’re the ones that stood with us at Doha, that helped us create a Development Agenda at WIPO, that rally with us to tweak the global IP regime ever so much so that it can almost start to work for us. They’re the ones that lead our collective oomph in these arenas. Are they really hurting us by trading with us?
Again, Professor Taylor says yes. (Unpause.) Commodities are finite resources. When they’re gone, they’re gone. Relying on commodity exports to fuel the economy wedges countries into a “resource corner.” If African countries do not start adding value within their borders, they’re going to be in trouble as soon as prices fall and needs wane.
Professor Taylor ended his presentation with a call for more research on the following four issues:
*This section (above) is a summary of Professor Taylor’s presentation. Little Leo’s comments are in red so as to prevent her getting credit for his brilliancy or him for her lack thereof.
Little Leo wasn’t able to ask her questions, like how the population’s youngness or the growing number of highly educated and influential active members of society might change the trajectory such that the next few decades are not a repeat of the 1970s and ‘80s. --She and her sister had to run to the station to catch the last train home. (Sadly, there are no minibuses or pikipiki between Chicago and Milwaukee.)-- Before she could raise her hand, a gentleman near the back blurted out his I-clearly-know-nothing-about-Africa question, which she could have forgiven him for a little more easily if he’d at least raised his hand.
What he asked was what anyone who hadn’t experienced the answers first-hand might have asked, “Why isn’t value being added in country?” Professor Taylor began listing the reasons: poor infrastructure, bureaucracy, corruption, unsecure nature of property rights, etc. So what can be done to change this? And, primarily for our interest (because this is, after all, an IP blog and Little Leo had to get there eventually), how can IP practitioners and scholars and the IP regime help bring about value-adding within Africa’s borders? Let’s add that question to Professor Taylor’s list above.
A few simplistic answers to get us started. We’ve already seen some ways in which we, collectively as the IP-savvy African movers and shakers (this Little muzungu Leo should stop lying, she cannot move or shake like an African), have worked towards increasing the ability of companies to add value within our borders. Many of the posts linked to above in the “Africa Rising” discourse paragraph discuss these things. Strengthening of IP enforcement is a big one and addresses part of the insecurity of property rights Professor Taylor mentioned. A lot of this enforcement so far has been criminal enforcement against counterfeit goods, but increasing enforcement capabilities through less bureaucracy in the court system for civil enforcement and removing corruption from registration agencies are additional approaches. Caroline Ncube’s IP Policy Reviews are a great resource to help us identify additional areas needing further improvement.
If the current “rise” is really just the balloon of Africa being blown sky high by the gusty winds of the BRIC countries’ whims, let’s switch it to a hot air balloon powered internally by our own needs, creations and developments.
Via Sean Flynn and the Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest comes an announcement particularly relevant for our readers and friends in Congo DRC, Egypt, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Libya, Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Sudan*. The Civil Society Leadership Awards (CSLA) is currently accepting applications to earn a scholarship for a fully-funded Master’s degree, including an LLM in IP.
From the CSLA announcement,
The purpose of the Program is to directly assist future leaders in countries where civil society is challenged by a deficit of democratic practice in local governance and social development. Awards are available for MA degree study in the following fields at universities participating in the CSLA program.
There’s a full list of participating universities and programs available on the application page at https://civilsocietyleadershipawards.submittable.com/submit/33850. One school that is definitely offering an LLM in IP is Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C. More info about their program here. This Little Leo didn’t find other schools offering exactly this degree on her brief glance/click-through, so interested cubs should check into individual schools if for more information on a particular institution.
For full details on the scholarship, see here (note that this is a google drive hosted document). Applications are due 15 December 2014 for study beginning in summer 2015.
*There are also non-African countries eligible; see the civil society leadership link above for a full list.
|M-Systems bid secure|
Two IP events relevant to Africa recently wandered onto this Little Leo’s hunting grounds. For those who have the inclination and ability to travel, these are worth checking out.
Next Monday, 27th October, the Uganda Christian University and Center for Health Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) as a participant in the Open AIR project are presenting a public lecture on Intellectual Property and Innovation in Africa.
The program will feature world renowned experts and Open AIR researchers Dr. Jeremy de Beer and Dr. Chidi Oguamanam, both coming from the University of Ottawa in Canada. Both are also contributors to the Open AIR books Innovation & Intellectual Porperty: Collaborating Dynamics in Africa and Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future, which were released last December at the Open Air conference in Cape Town. (Afro-IP posts on the conference here.)
The lecture is from 2pm – 4pm Monday in lecture room (M3) at Uganda Christian University Mukono. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP with Ms. Primah Kwagala at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a book launch event the following day, 28 October at Protea Hotel Kampala from 9am – noon. Tickets for the book launch are available through Eventbrite.
WIPO, WHO and WTO are collaborating on a program covering Innovation and Access to Medical Technologies – Challenges and Opportunities for Middle-Income Countries on 5 November. This all-day event (8:30am – 5pm) will cover plenty of hot topics, including Ebola, trends in medical technologies, and challenges in ensuring access to medical technologies. Full pdf schedule here.
Since roughly half of the countries on the continent are classified as middle-income countries in some way (one list here), this program could be relevant to a number of Afro-IP readers. It’s also nice to see the big organizations collaborating together to discuss important issues. Registration is open until 3 November through the WTO site.
If any readers are able to attend either of these programs, we’d love to hear reports back about them.
Seychelles enacted a new Industrial Property Act about 6 months ago and it is now available for your perusal. It is not yet in effect, though, so don’t start relying on it yet. The new Act is available here in a delightfully nostalgic looking pdf. Not great for searching, but excellent for reminiscing about long hours in the library. For those more interested in usability than nostalgia, the version submitted to WIPO is searchable.
The Act covers Patents, Utility Models, Industrial Designs, Integrated Circuits, Trademarks and Geographical Indications (combined in the same part), and Unfair Competition. The Act includes enforcement provisions for both civil and criminal enforcement. According to Inventa International, the new legislation is in preparation for Seychelles to join the WTO. The purpose of the act certainly seems in line with the purpose of IP purported by TRIPS:
AN ACT to provide for the adequate protection and enforcement of industrial property rights in order to encourage local inventive and innovative activities, stimulate transfer of technology, promote foreign direct investment, create competitive business environment, discourage unfair practices, enhance free and fair practice and thereby foster socio economic development and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Here’s a great opportunity. Many of the goals listed above are measureable. Since the Act is not yet in effect, we could get some baseline numbers for current foreign direct investment amounts and number of existing technology transfer projects and compare those down the road at the 5, 10, 20, etc. -year points after the 2014 Act goes into effect. Then we can analyze whether TRIPS-level IP laws really do increase all these things.
In the meantime, we’ll settle for covering some aspects of the new Act worth mentioning.
Plants, micro-organisms and natural substances are not patentable; neither are business methods. The Act follows the first to file rule, however applicants who have already applied for a patent in a WTO member country can receive right of priority (See Sect. 13). Patent terms are 20 years from date of filing and annual fees are due (yes, every year) to keep the patent valid.
The Act provides for compulsory patent licenses in the cases of public interest, non-practice (“insufficiently exploited in Seychelles…after a period of 4 years”), anti-competitive practices, abusive licensing, and needs of a subsequent patent. (Chapter 5.)
Industrial Design registrations are valid for 5 years with the possibility of 2 additional 5-year renewal terms. The same compulsory licensing provisions for patents apply to Industrial Designs. Changes in ownership must be registered in ordered to be enforced against third parties.
The Act provides for right of priority for trademark registrations, as with patents. Three-dimensional marks can be registered, and there’s provisions for what to do when the mark cannot be visually perceived, which suggests that sound and scent marks may be registerable. Trademark registrations are valid for an initial term of 10 years with renewals available at 7 year intervals.