Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Post Script

Following the post on Botswana immediately below and others on African countries seeking a stronger IP rights culture, Afro-IP weblog notes that it must be difficult to reconcile the balance between a robust IP regime which nurtures and incentivises a knowledge based economy, and the need for access to certain basic necessities such as Antiretroviral Drugs which may be constrained by IP laws through increased prices or exclusive supply lines. For example, Botswana also has the one of highest rates of HIV infections in the world and Uganda recently reported relaxing IP laws to combat the problem (see Allafrica report here). This is not a new issue for the continent but one which attracts emotional debate.

Second Botswanan Minister To Urge IP Focus

Cabinet minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has urged universities, research and technology transfer institutions to focus on using their intellectual property in a meaningful way to help the economy. Speaking at a workshop held with WIPO at the University of Botswana, she stated that the exploitation of IP has become central in the government's current debates on development. She noted that "the world is undergoing total economic transformation, whereby wealth is no longer measured in physical assets but rather in intellectual property. Manufacturing and all forms of economic production are increasingly becoming IP based". This is the second time in as many weeks that a Botswanan Minister has spoken out on the importance of an effective intellectual property regime to the Botswanan economy.

See the full report here.

Did you know? Botswana is home to Africa's longest continuous multi-party democracy BBC.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Morocco's Nemotek first licensee for OptiML tech

Morocco-based start-up Nemotek has become the first licensee of Tessera Technologies' OptiML Wafer-Level Camera (WLC) chip-packaging technology, which makes it possible to manufacture thousands of lenses simultaneously on a semiconductor wafer, reports EE Times. Nemotek expects to begin volume shipments in January 2009, with capacity plans for more than 150 million wafer-level camera units and 250 thousand image sensor wafers per year.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Kenya Appeal Court Denies Single Colour Protection

Afro IP has come across a recent trade mark decision of Kenya's Court of Appeal (British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd ("BAT") v Cut Tobacco Kenya Ltd ("CUTT") ) in which BAT had unsuccessfully attempted to overturn a decision of the Superior Court in CUTT's favour. BAT and CUTT manufactured two competing brands of cigarettes, SPORTSMAN and HORSEMAN. BATT argued that CUTT had infringed the SPORTSMAN trade mark by using a deceptive imitation of its packaging and was passing off its brand of cigarettes as being those of, or associated with, BAT's cigarettes.

In dismissing BAT's Appeal the three judge Appeal bench held that there can be no proprietary rights in a particular colour and there can be no proprietary rights in general in words descriptive of goods.

Comment:

1. The case contains an interesting analysis of how the laws of trade mark infringement and passing off are applied in Kenya as well as their Court procedure. Unsurprisingly, some reference is made to English law;

2. Despite the fact that this second appeal was heard years after the action was filed in 1999, initial relief was obtained (in BAT's favour) within five months of filing the action in March 1999 and the first appeal was filed in 2000 and heard at separate sittings in 2001 and 2002, when a decision was granted in favour of CUTT in July that year;

3. Security for costs placed into Court by BAT after its initial hearing were in Shs 20,000,000/- Kenya Shillings (or $275,000 at today's exchange rate);

4. The action appears to have been argued using typical action style procedure with four witnesses being cross examined in Court. In some countries in Africa, it is possible to hear these types of cases on the papers alone, principally, to speed up decision making;

5. The eventual outcome is not surprising because "get-up/trade dress" type cases are rarely won without significant evidence showing a likelihood of confusion. Afro IP's guess is that BAT's first victory in 1999 probably gave them sufficient time to commercially secure market share over CUTT whilst the case was pending appeal.

BSA-IDC report pinpoints benefits predicted from reducing SA software piracy

According to an article in Moneyweb, the reduction of software piracy over the next four years in South Africa could create a stronger local information technology (IT) sector, generate new high paying jobs and contribute to the country’s economy. These conclusions are contained in a new study released today by the Business Software Alliance (BSA). The study, commissioned by BSA and conducted independently by International Data Corporation (IDC), notes that the IT industry already is a major contributor to jobs, tax revenues and South Africa’s gross domestic product. The South African IT industry is projected to deliver 99 000 jobs, R84 billion in economic growth and over R30 billion in tax revenues by 2011. According to the study,
"Reducing South Africa’s 35% software piracy rate by 10 percentage points would have a “multiplier effect” and increase those economic benefits, generating 1200 additional jobs, R480 million in tax revenues and R6 billion in spending in the local IT sector over the next four years".
The BSA-IDC study is available online here. It examines the bottom-line economic benefits of reducing PC software piracy in 42 countries. The cornerstone of the research is IDC's Piracy Impact Model (PIM), which takes inputs from IDC's market research around the globe on IT spending and software piracy, along with other information on IT employment levels and IT-related taxes.

Of the 42 countries examined, only 4 were from Africa -- the other three being Egypt, Kenya and Morocco.

Achebe comments on IP culture in Nigeria

Vanguard carries an interview with Chidi Chike Achebe, the second son of Chinua and Christie Achebe. Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart was published 50 years ago this year. When asked, "What do you perceive are the greatest threats to the Nigerian literature and art scene today?", Achebe responded:
"The dearth of a reading culture in Nigeria, the collapse of the publishing industry, piracy and intellectual property theft. There is an incomplete understanding by some in power, that art should be taken seriously, deeply appreciated, and that if well nurtured, talented artists can affect and change the lives of millions, in a very deep and positive way".

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Japan to fund "better use" of African IP

Japan News Review, citing "unnamed government sources" today, reports that Japan plans to create a 110 million yen fund later this year to further its efforts to help African countries protect and make better use of intellectual property. The fund will be one of Japan’s top agenda items at this summer’s G8 summit which is to be held in Toyako, Hokkaido. When the plan is presented on Tuesday, its details will indicate how much of the fund is to be spent on IP admininstration and infrastructure, how much on education to raise IP consciousness and how much on helping develop R&D.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Microsoft "outs" SA infringers

The Times reports that Microsoft has publicly exposed eight businesses which it sued for selling illegal software since it started its Genuine Software campaign. Civil settlements totalling over R200,000 have been made with the eight, which are still in business but being monitored. The eight are Millennium Computers (Harrismith), Bitel Computers (Port Shepstone), Computer Concepts (Newcastle), Dautech Computers (Gauteng), Richards Bay Computers, Universal Computers and Ngatia Trading (all from Richards Bay) and A&M Hyperworld (Mpumalanga). All were caught following the making of trap purchases by private investigators and police.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Poison toothpaste alert in Botswana

Botswana is the latest country to warn consumers against buying Chinese manufactured toothpaste that contains Diethylene Glycol (DEG), a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent, according to AllAfrica. DEG is not recommended for use in food and drugs and it is said to contribute to mass poisoning in different parts of the world. Elsewhere the United States Food and Drug Administration has warned consumers to avoid using toothpaste labelled 'made in China'. The toothpaste is marketed under a product name but without the permission of the company that has the legal right to use that name.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Zimbabwe re-launches Anti-Piracy Organisation

APOZ or the Anti-Piracy Organisation of Zimbabwe was launched this month as copyright and collective management inspectorate. According to the allAfrica report APOZ is the only organisation that fights piracy in Zimbabwe and has until now been operating as a "powerless police informer" whose efforts were reduced to nothing because of loopholes in the existing legislature and lack of interest among the stakeholders. The organisation would now be able to lobby for arresting powers from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and for an anti-piracy section within the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Operations Director, Innocent Matsengarwodzi, also said matters concerning copyright infringement would be treated as serious crime warranting the full wrath of the law. According to the article up to 98 arrests were made in connection with various infringements and raids last year so it would appear that Matsengarwodzi has even tougher measures in mind.

Kinky sold to Indian consumer goods firm

Indian company Godrej Consumer Products has informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the Kinky hair business in South Africa. Kinky is one of the leading brands in the South African hair business, covering dry hair, hair braids, human hair extensions, hair pieces, wigs and wefted pieces among other products. 36 years old, the Kinky brand has been registered as a trade mark in South Africa and in several other countries.

Tanzania increases powers to seize counterfeits

AllAfrica reports that a new law giving powers to Tanzania's Fair Competition Commission (FCC) to take action against dealers of counterfeit goods will come into force this year. The FCC is currently only allowed to impound counterfeit goods at the point of entry, in most cases the ports. The existing legal framework for fighting counterfeits in Tanzania was the Merchandise Marks Act, 1963 CAP.85 RE 2002 (formerly CAP.519) as amended in 2004, which makes dealing in counterfeit goods a criminal offence. Remarkably this Act came into force on 15 April 2005 - 42 years after its enactment.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Cup of Nations: can YOU watch it?

Africa's Cup of Nations football tournament is now underway, and the broadcasting rights are coming under scrutiny. According to Follow the Media,
" ... TV broadcast rights fees were too stiff for some African broadcasters, sending the matches to pay-channels. But, then, the remarkable rise of the mobile phone is unleashing the power of that platform.

SportFive acquired broadcast rights for the Cup of Nations from its organizer, the Confederation of African Football, and has gone about reselling rights to whoever has the cash. This has left viewers in some countries to decide between pay-per-view and no football. SportFive is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lagardère. It is also the European broadcast rights sales agent for the UEFA Euro 2008 championships.

Football fans in Zambia, Rwanda and Kenya will miss Cup of Nations coverage on their free-to-air television channels. Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation was unable to raise the €1 million rights fee, which ZNBC General Director Joseph Salasini called “unpleasant.”

...

Rwanda’s national TV broadcaster was unable to raise the €290,000 rights fee. Like ZNBC, Namibian Broadcasting Corporation was asked for €1 million.

SportFive resold cup of Nations TV rights for Europe to Eurosport, for North Africa and the Middle East to ARTE Arab Group and South African mobile phone operator MIT for southern Africa.

Paris-based LC2 International bought broadcast rights for 43 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, according to its January 5th press release. Showing the contentious nature of buying and trading rights the company made clear it would litigate any infringement “immediately and systematically” and set a minimum penalty of “one euro per inhabitant of each country concerned.” LC2 operates a Benin television channel.

Nigeria’s audio-visual industry association Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) balked at LC 2 International’s demand for €3 million for rights, offering €1.25 million. BON Chairman Abubakar B. Jijiwa, in an op-ed posted in The Guardian (Nigeria) January 14, angrily said “the days when shylock broadcast right holders ride roughshod over the Nigerian broadcasters by the jugular are over.” LC2 International asked Kenya’s public broadcaster KBC for €300,000, which it could not afford.

Cable network MultiChoice Africa, owner of the Supersport channel, bought exclusive media rights for South Africa and non-exclusive rights for the rest of Africa. During the weekend prior to the Cup of Nations MultiChoice set up a DVB-H mobile TV trial, offering a replay of the 2006 FIFA World Cup opening match to 1500 subscribers in South Africa. Clearly, the rise of mobile phone users in Africa will bring its own world-class match-up: pay-TV vs. mobile TV.

The astounding take-up of mobile phone usage in Africa has been noticed by both African and international broadcasters. In conflict zones people are sending pictures and video to television stations. Radio talk-shows have become vibrant – and often quite wild – with callers on mobile phones able to easily interact. Informa Telecoms & Media forecast 2008 mobile phone subscription growth in Africa is the highest of all the worlds’ regions, 18.7%, surpassing the Asia Pacific region at 16.05%

...

The attachment of sports and the mobile phone has been touted for years, at least the turn of the century. To date, reality hasn’t caught up with the promise or the investment. By the end of the year the Beijing Olympics and the Euro 2008 football championships will be history. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and all other sellers of sports rights are abundantly aware of new media’s impact, looking in every corner for more cash. But it remains with consumers, who ultimately pay for these services, to determine the sports content they want, where they want it and how they will use it. The results from Africa these next three weeks could be very revealing".

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Botswana speaks out

Serwalo Tumelo, Botswana’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, has called on the United Nations Development Program to take a more forceful role on free trade in Africa. According to this allAfrica.com article, Tumelo believes the global trade and intellectual property regimes play a significant role in the marginalisation of Africa from the benefits of globalisation. "Africa is stuck in trade in low value added commodities, with tariff escalation in developed countries restricting value addition in developing countries." He also called on the UNDP to engage Africa more forcefully on governance, adding that reforms the continent needs are also about good policies, good legislative environments and functional institutions. The reforms are also about pro-development value systems that interlock to empower ordinary citizens and create opportunities for them to work their way towards better living.

SA Building Industry Going Green

According to Engineering News the SA property market is preparing to enter the global 'green-building' boom, and the recently established Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) has set to work on developing a ratings tool for the assessment of so-called ‘green’ buildings. The GBCSA board made the decision to use Australia's Greenstar environmental rating system for buildings as the basis of a SA rating system, which will be customised for the SA situation. The Green Building Council of Australia offered the GBCSA the Intellectual Property of their Greenstar system at no charge, as well as support in operating the system and training staff and assessors.

AFRO-IP wonders if The Green Building Council of Australia are aware that according to their local Trade Mark Office a certain Mr Matthew Bliss has a pending application for GREENSTAR HOMES for "building and construction services; building management". He also wonders if the GBCSA are considering a certification mark for their local protection in South Africa? A certification mark is special category of trade mark which indicates that goods or services are certified by the proprietor in respect of their characteristics eg origin, mode of manufacture of goods or performance of services or quality. Typical SA examples include:

Libya, nuclear power and tech transfer

In an interview with Der Spiegel, reported by Petroleum World yesterday, OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla Salem el-Badri fielded questions on a wide range of energy-related issues. At one point the dialogue turned to nuclear energy and the technology needed for it:
"SPIEGEL: How do you feel about the international resurgence of nuclear energy? Does nuclear power belong in the energy mix of industrialized countries?

El-Badri : As long as safety can be guaranteed -- why not?

SPIEGEL: You're not convinced that modern nuclear power plants are safe?

El-Badri : It's an extremely dangerous technology. As we have seen in Chernobyl, even a single accident can have devastating consequences.

SPIEGEL: And yet countries rich in natural resources, like Iran and your native Libya, are investing heavily in nuclear technology. Tripoli has just placed an order with the French for a nuclear power plant.

El-Badri : Before this technology can benefit Libya, it will have to train many specialists and it will require a great deal of technology transfer".

Calling all members of the SAIIPL

The AFRO-IP team has become aware that members of SAIIPL are invited to a Special Meeting held jointly by the AIPPI (South African Group) and the SAIIPL on Friday 1 February 2008. The Special Meeting will host the International President of AIPPI, Mr Ron Myrick, who will be on a visit to South Africa to meet with members of the South African Group of AIPPI and the SAIIPL, as well as members of government, persons from academe, research or business and others involved or interested in intellectual property.

The meeting will be at 15:00 in the Auditorium of Bowman Gilfillan Inc, located at 165 West Street, Sandton, Johannesburg and will be followed by a cocktail reception.

You can confirm your attendance by Friday 25 January 2008 to:
Teresa van Loggrenberg (Adams and Adams)
Tel: +27 12-481 1645
Email: teresa-v@adamsadams.co.za

Monday, 21 January 2008

S11D (R&D tax incentive) Guideline

Mike Du Toit, current president of the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law, has kindly drawn AFRO-IP’s attention to a 34 page comprehensive guide to the S11D tax incentive, published by Sibanda and Zantwijk on their website here. The guideline is a very worthwhile read for those interested in taking advantage of the potentially significant incentive.

According to S11D(1): For the purpose of determining the taxable income derived by a taxpayer from carrying on any trade, there shall be allowed as a deduction from the income of such taxpayer so derived, an amount equal to 150 per cent of so much of any expenditure actually incurred by that taxpayer directly in respect of activities undertaken in the Republic directly for the purposes of qualifying R&D activities.

The document contains a condition of fair use stating that “all references to the firm should be retained if the document is used, distributed or copied” just after the statement that the document “is released in furtherance to the firm’s commitment to make intellectual property more accessible” (a notion that strikes a chord with AFRO-IP).

The legislation can be downloaded through the National Treasury website.

Recent articles of interest

In the current issue of Trademark World (December 2007/January 2008), Wim Alberts (Bowman Gilfillan John & Kernick) writes on "Staving off expungement: the 'engineered' use of a trademark in South African, UK and EC Law". This article looks at the effect of section 27(1)(b) of South Africa's Trade Marks Act 194 of 1993 and considers the possibility of creating apparently bona fide 'engineered' use of an otherwise unused registered trade mark in order to ward off the threat of expungement of the registration for five years' non-use.

The Afro-IP blog team welcome news of recent articles on any aspect of intellectual property law in, or affecting, Africa. Please email your information here.

Rezidor extends hotel franchise to Senegal

The Belgium-based Rezidor Hotel Group is to extend its franchise to three further properties under its mid-market Park Inn brand. Two will be in Europe, but the third will be in Dakar, Senegal, where the 105-room Park Inn Dakar is expected to open its doors in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Renault-Nissan set to consolidate brand domination in Morocco

Renault-Nissan has signed an agreement with the Moroccan government to invest euro 600 million in building a manufacturing complex near Tangiers, on which work will commence next month. The site will initially produce 200,000 vehicles per year from 2010, rising to 400,000 vehicles per year once the plant is completed. Renault-Nissan owns the leading automotive brands in Morocco, with a remarkable market share of 30.1%.

Musa research project now complete

Africa Science News reports that scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have now concluded a five-year project to improve plant breeding techniques and develop new cultivars in order to increase yields of Musa crops (banana and plantain) for application in poverty reduction and income generation efforts throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The project also developed new methods for deploying the varieties in a way that preserves traditional varieties while offering additional value-adding processing options. IITA has global responsibility for banana and plantain research.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Terra 2008 to focus on earth-building technologies

Terra 2008, the 10th international conference on earth-building, is to be held from 1 to 5 February 2008 in Bamako, Mali (click here for conference details). The thrust of the event is that, while nearly one half the world’s population (about three billion people across six continents) lives or works in buildings constructed of earth, environmental and economic changes are resulting in a loss of skills in repairing existing earthen buildings and erecting new ones. Terra 2008 will bring together more than 300 international experts from the fields of conservation, anthropology, architecture and engineering, scientific research, site management and sustainable development of earthen architectural heritage to assess the state of earthen architecture worldwide and the latest scientific research in this field. Afro-IP notes that, despite the antiquity of earth-building technologies, patents are still being obtained for inventions in this field and there is great scope for further innovation.

Egyptian clinical study "blocked by the NYSDOH"

According to the IPD Group a landmark study aimed at Egypt's hepatitis C pandemic, involving collaboration of the National Research Centre in Cairo and Medizone International, a US public company engaged in developing complementary therapies for hepatitis C, has been blocked by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). Said a spokesman for Medizone: "the motives are clear. The NYSDOH has a history of strongly suppressing complementary therapies. Also, special interests are involved, potent economic forces fighting to keep the status quo on established pharmaceutical pipelines". The pandemic is believed to be caused, at least in part, by the failure of an earlier vaccination programme.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Science with Africa Conference in Ethopia


The ISC-Intelligence in Science and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) are organising a Science with Africa Conference in Addis Abba from 3-7 March. According to the conference website Science with Africa will focus on the following interesting topics:
Partnering: Finding sponsors; partnering strategy;
IPR & Patents: Patent legislation; prior art; IPR evaluation; access to patent information;
Technology Transfer: Technology transfer methodologies; technology transfer centres;innovation network-centres for Africa;
Financing: Analysis of existing financing; available investments; R&D spending figures;spending trends;
Dissemination: Dissemination structures; promoting best practices; information collection; editing;
Proposal Presentation: IP; submitting; funding.
The full program can be downloaded here.

Forthcoming pharma regulatory conference

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Drug Information Association and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations are co-hosting the first African Regulatory Conference: A Forum for Regulatory Authorities and the Pharmaceutical Industry on 5-6 February 2008 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This conference offers a chance to promote partnerships between African regulatory authorities and the pharmaceutical industry, to facilitate open discussion on current topics important to the region, to raise awareness of the regulatory environment and promote exchange of information, and to share views on expectations, benefits, and challenges to regulatory harmonization.

International speakers and participants include representatives from SADC, the World Health Organization, the European Medicines Agency the Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention and Pharmaceutical Inspection Cooperation Scheme, the South African Department of Health and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.

As elections loom, BOMU reviews developments

The Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) is expected to elect a new executive committee next month, reports AllAfrica. Although the BOMU executive has come under heavy criticism, secretary general Nkgopoleng Tlhomelang is upbeat: "We are proud of our achievements. We have networked with so many organisations, both locally and internationally. Even as far as the United States. We have worked with organisations that deal with intellectual property. Some of these organisations sponsored our workshops". He added that progress was being made in the field of copyright protection in Botswana: holograms were to be attached to albums in an attempt to reduce piracy and plans have been submitted for the establishment of a collecting society.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Feedback Update


By sharing this blog with friends and colleagues and following Jeremy's post on the IPKAT here, we have received a number of comments that we wanted to share with you:

  • It looks very promising. I mentioned it on www.pmdm.fr. I hope contributors from various African countries will join you.
  • Very interesting concept. It would be good to deal with the issues of helping the poorer African states to understand, recognise and protect their IP rights.
  • The black background is a bit forbidding.
  • SA is underrepresented. This part of Africa is probably the most active as far as IP is concerned.
  • The blog looks great.
  • It looks very good and the content seems to be relevant and interesting.
  • I must say, the blog is excellent!
  • The referenceability of the site could be better improved.

Do you agree with these comments? Perhaps you have more? We welcome this feedback tremendously, thank you.

Thanks too for the mention on www.pmdm.fr by Frédéric Glaize, a prolific blogger whose postings can be followed here and here

Funding Legislation Under Consideration


Biotechnology firms in South Africa have urged MPs to reconsider clauses in the draft Technology Innovation Agency Bill that give the Agency rights to board representation and equity stakes in the firms it invests in, saying these rights would grant too much control to the government via the agency according the The Business Day, a leading South African business newspaper. The Technology Innovation Agency is a government backed initiative designed to “increase the rate at which home-grown research is turned into successful commercial products and services”. However, “Having a government agency as a shareholder and board member can seriously undermine the adaptability and decision-making capability essential for a fast-growing and dynamic company,” said AfricaBio’s Donrich Jordaan.

If the draft Technology Information Agency Bill is intended to be anything like the success of a similar US initiative which began over twenty five years ago, known as the Bayh-Dole Act, South African industry has much to look forward to. Perhaps the most important contribution of Bayh-Dole is that it reversed the presumption of title. Bayh-Dole permits a university, small business, or non-profit institution to elect to pursue ownership of an invention before the government.

Microsoft calls for more consumer education, government support

Abednego Hlatshwayo (Microsoft anti-piracy manager for East and Southern Africa) is quoted in Business Daily as saying that devices such as CD and DVD-writers, as well as internet tools, are making it easy for pirates to operate in Africa. In calling for more education for consumers in Kenya with regard to intellectual property rights, he regretted the high level of complacency displayed by the relevant State organs when it came to the protection of intellectual property. He added: "Although many African governments recognise these rights, they lack the ability to protect them", supporting his contention by the fact that only a few African governments have set aside resources that are needed to fight piracy, leaving the police and law enforcement agencies without the equipment they need to identify pirated goods and enforce IP regulations.

Microsoft has reported some success in supporting various anti-piracy initiatives in a number of African countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana. In Zambia and Kenya, particularly, there are dedicated groups of police that form part of the IP Protection Agencies, and who are passionate about their work and see the value that they bring to the country through their anti-piracy activities.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

De Beers in Price Fixing Settlement


According to iafrica.com , South African headquartered world diamond giant De Beers is to pay $295m in a class action settlement after it was accused of unlawfully monopolising the supply of diamonds, conspiring to fix diamond prices and issuing false and misleading advertising in the United States. De Beers, who coined the slogan "Diamonds are Forever" and own 70% of the diamond mines in Africa according to Wikipedia , have denied any wrongdoing in setting up a fund to pay the settlement. The class action lawsuits were brought against De Beers by Consumers, Resellers and Direct Purchasers in the United States (whose particulars are described in more detail by the Diamond Class Action Settlement website) .

Dispute over "Adventist" in Rwanda

The Universite Adventiste d'Afrique Centrale (UAAC) has petitioned Rwanda's National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to stop the Unilak campus carrying the word 'Adventist' in its name. UAAC says the name 'Adventist' was, among other things, a registered trade mark for institutions solely owned and run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, adding: "Using the word 'Adventist', Unilak creates confusion to the public and the authorities who often confound the University with Adventist University of Central Africa". Unilak denies liability.

DTCA reminds its staff of tech transfer imperative

According to The Tide Online, staff of the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA) have been reminded of the need for effective promotion and actualisation of Nigeria's foreign policy. At a workshop organised by the directorate, the Director General of the Directorate, Dr Sule Bassi, said that the DTCA as a diplomatic tool, was capable of fast-tracking cooperation, integration and development process in Africa and reminded his audience that, since its inception, the DTCA had been promoting technology transfer between Nigeria and other African countries.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Gazprom eyes Nigerian gas, offers tech transfer

Gazprom, the massive Russian energy company, is reportedly in talks with Nigerian energy officials with a view to developing the country's vast gas reserves under a possible US$2.5 billion deal, prompting fears in Europe and the West about the company's domination of gas supplies. Says the Russian energy giant: "Africa is one of Gazprom's priorities, as the company made a decision to go global in terms of acquiring assets and developing strategy outside Russia". The company is said to be looking at exploration, gathering, processing, technology transfer, and infrastructure development.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

WCO warns that Africa, not China, is its main threat

The World Customs Organisation now regards African countries as the main concern in Europe's fight against unsafe and counterfeit goods, which are said to be worth over $200 billion in trade every year, according to a report from Reuters. Most fake clothes, toys, foodstuffs and medicines still originate from China, but Africa is now the main transit route to Europe. Said a WCO spokesman:
"Africa has become a big hole for us. The African territories, particularly in the west, are being used for transiting and commuting counterfeit and unsafe goods to hide their Chinese origin ... The problem in Africa is that customs officers there might as well be invisible. They are not empowered to act. The smugglers know this and this is why they are moving stuff from China through Africa as the other routes are well-covered".

Efavirenz too expensive in South Africa, claims report

A report in Health 24 says that, according to the experts, the Department of Health in South Africa is paying much more than it needs to for key HIV drug Efavirenz. On one estimate the government is currently providing almost 400,000 patients with one of two first-line highly active antiretroviral therapy regimens, both consisting of three different drugs. One of the drug combinations contains the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor Efavirenz. According The Western Cape Antiretroviral Programme Monitoring report 2006 cites 64 cents out of every rand spent on first-line drugs as being spent on Efavirenz, making that product more expensive than the two other drugs combined. Generic versions of Efavirenz are rported to be available in other countries at significantly lower prices, with the result that the South African government is paying between 15% and 30% over the odds. Merck Sharpe and Dohme holds the patent, and other companies wishing to make the drug require a licence. Apparently such licences were granted to two companies: Thembalami Pharmaceuticals (which is no longer in existence)and Aspen (which has not yet brought a product to market).

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Uganda wine market grows

An article in AllAfrica.com on the growth of a sophisticated wine-drinking culture in Uganda lists the names of various wine products that are now available. One interviewee comments: "Thanks to friendly trade policies in place, we've successfully democratized wine. Now, selecting a bottle of wine is as simple as finding your hair style". Uganda has been a member of the World Trade Organization since 1 January 1995; WTO membership requires compliance with TRIPs, which in turn lays down minimum levels of protection for protected geographical indications -- an important area of law where wine labelling is concerned.

Friday, 11 January 2008

ABB to upgrade local engineering skills as well as power station

According to The Times (South Africa), Swiss power-technology company ABB has been given a contract worth $90-million (R630-million) to upgrade control systems and instrumentation at the 20-year-old Matla power station in Mpumalanga. ABB is to refurbish all control systems at the 3600MW coal-fired power station; project management and engineering will be done locally, with relevant training for to local engineers and technicians. Said a spokesman for ABB:
“We are delighted that the refurbishment of Matla has encouraged local expertise in South Africa. This has been achieved through years of technology transfer, making our local operation competitive".

Working with FAN "commendable"

Writing in Global Politician, Ugo Harris Ukandu ("The Way Forward For Nigerian Film Industry") points out that, according to Filmmakers of Nigeria (FAN), international piracy of Nigerian movies and films in the Americas, Canada, Europe and other African countries is costing Nigeria an estimated US$50 million annually. He commends the film industry for its plan to work with Filmmakers of Nigeria USA (FAN USA), to organizes their marketing and distribution strategy internationally in USA and Europe to cut out piracy and to repatriate their money and efforts back in the Nigerian economy, adding:
"This is commendable but more is needed to be done. Examples are the dubious contracts each individual film makers, marketers, actors, actress and producers are undertaking individually with dubious individuals both internationally and within Nigeria for their personal marketing and distribution rights, and these contracts are not abiding or enforceable in the international copyright laws or anywhere else in the world. Such hasty contract with no backbone and as such these people are given blank checks to produce and distribute Nigeria arts and Films internationally with no money coming to them or into Nigeria, and it is a win win situation for the piraters and copyright violators . Nigeria and the film industry are shortchanged and violated big time in these hasty deals".

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Angola's IP Office undergoes reorganisation

The Angolan IP Office in the country's capital Luanda is undergoing a process of reorganisation. Accordingly the Office will, for the time being, be open to the public only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Roche provides know-how for making generic Saquinavir

CNN reports that Swiss-based drug company Roche Holding AG is entering into four new cost-free technology transfers with local manufacturers in Africa, helping them make generic HIV medicine. The drugs, based upon Saquinavir (Roche's second-line HIV medicine) will be made by Regal Pharmaceuticals in Kenya, CAPS Holdings in Zimbabwe and Shelys Pharmaceuticals in Tanzania. This deal brings to nine the number of technology transfer agreements between Roche and companies in some of the world's least developed countries.

Eurosport signs Africa football deal with Puma

Sportswear brand Puma has signed a deal with the Eurosport sport network to sponsor its live football coverage of the forthcoming African Cup of Nations. The sportswear brand is using the deal to launch its new ‘Until then…’ campaign, which has been developed to promote the new v1.08 football boot. The campaign will run from 20 January, when the tournament starts, till the final on 10 February. Eurosport, a pan-European sports channel, broadcasts in 59 countries.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The "browning" of Africa--a new trend in tech transfer?

Writing in Intellibriefs, G Pascal Zachary discusses what he calls the 'Browning’ of African technology. This is his term for the sudden influx of Chinese and Indian technologies into Africa, which has long been the domain of “white” Americans and Europeans who want to apply their saving hand to African problems. The “browning” of technology in Africa is only in its infancy, he explains, but the shift is likely to accelerate. Chinese and Indian engineers hail from places that have much more in common with Africa than Silicon Valley or Cambridge. Africa also offers a testing ground for Asian-designed technologies that are not yet ready for US or European markets. While technology transfer from China and India could be a smokescreen for a new “brown imperialism” aimed at exploiting African oil, food, and minerals, Africans genuinely need foreign technology and the Chinese, in particular, are pushing hard to fill the gap.

Trade mark tax break in South Africa

According to an article by Sanchia Temkin, on AllAfrica.com, taxpayers in South Africa may now claim deductions for registration costs relating to trade marks in the light of a recent amendment to the Income Tax Act. Up till now, the law has allowed tax deductions only where the taxpayer incurred renewal costs pertaining to trade mark registration.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Libya, US, sign technology cooperation pact

Last week the United States and Libya signed a bilateral Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement. The US-Libya Agreement is the first official bilateral agreement signed between the two countries since re-establishment of relations in 2004. According to the US government
"The new agreement provides a mechanism through which the United States and Libya can broaden cooperation in all scientific and technology fields, and move forward in areas of on-going collaboration such as public health, water resources, and space and upper atmospheric science. It is designed to support government-to-government exchanges, scientific partnerships between private, academic, and non-governmental entities, and the establishment of science-based industries and promotion of jobs. The Agreement establishes a framework to facilitate exchange of scientific results and provide protection for intellectual property rights, and will also help establish a regional dialogue on important science issues, such as the protection of the environment and the management of shared resources.

The Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement is an important step in recognizing Libya’s historic renunciation of weapons of mass destruction and positive re-engagement with the international community. It is also a component of US efforts to promote peace and stability in the Maghreb region of Africa and broadening US-Libya bilateral relations".

Ethiopia confirms rights in Harar, Sidamo coffee names

News agency Reuters has reported that Ethiopia has obtained trade mark rights for its specialty Harar and Sidamo coffee names. During 2007 the African coffee-producing country had a lengthy dispute with Starbucks Corp over the use of the two names in the United States. Ethiopia has now signed agreements with 60 global firms to distribute its coffees.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

OLPC programme faces patent infringement threat

According to an article in InformationWeek, Lagos Analysis Corp. is threatening patent infringement proceedings against the One Laptop Per Child programme, maintaining that the OLPC programme uses an XO laptop that falls within the scope of a patent it says it holds on "multilingual keyboards". Damages of $20 million and injunctive relief are sought. OLPC denies the claim.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

South Africa - limited protection for FIFA

While the DTI didn't give FIFA a red card, it wasn't Father Christmas either when dealing with their request in terms of section 15 of the South African Merchandise Marks Act 1941. Section 15 provides that the Minister may prohibit the use of 'any mark, word, letter or figure' in connection with 'any trade, business, profession, occupation or event'. Some of the words for which FIFA sought this blanket protection included Africa 2010, South Africa 2010, World Cup and 2010. The Minister of Trade and Industry, by General Notice 1791 in Government Gazette 30595 of 14 December 2007, prohibited the use of certain of the requested marks and words. The prohibition
"only applies to activities connected to 2010 FIFA World Cup SOUTH AFRICA in the area of Football or Soccer 2010 FIFA World Cup. The prohibition does not apply to the media, provided the reportage is fair and not imbued with unscrupulous business enterprising".
The phrasing clearly can give rise to further debate, but at least only certain words and devices were given protection [the ones that look as if they could be trade marks] and the limitation on the protection granted, to activities connected to the relevant event, means that ordinary South Africans can refer to their country, the date, and even worlds and cups without running the risk of FIFA's wrath.

Friday, 4 January 2008

New record seizure at Tambo

IOL reports , via The Star, 3 January 2008, that police have intercepted what is believed to be the largest shipment of fake DVDs in South Africa's history, estimated to be worth more than R200-million on the illegal market. Also uncovered were other fake goods which could be sold for several million rands more.The cargo, seized at OR Tambo International Airport, included 147 containers packed with about 2.3-million movies. The tally of goods seized matched the total confiscated by the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft (Safact) since its inception in 1999. IP owners affected included Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and Nokia.