Tuesday, 30 June 2009

UAC building for its brands' future

This week's BrandChannel contains, unusually, a feature dedicated to an African brand owner. "United Africa Company of Nigeria: refreshing?", by Eric Okeke, summarises the historical roots of UAC -- which go back more than a century -- and review its rebranding and present policies. Key to its future plans are its franchising operations: the UAC Franchising division, for instance, manages the franchising relationships of licensed international brands Innscor Foods in Zimbabwe, Nandos in South Africa and the franchise operations of Mr. Biggs.

This is only a short article, but it makes for a pleasant change to read something with a confident, upbeat tone to it after all the usual miserable features about counterfeits.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Ghana local film industry receives boost - IP laws will be tested

Silverbird Entertainment, a private cinema house, is promoting the screening of Ghanaian and other African movies to generate income for local movie producers. A statement signed by Brooke Nuwati, media relations officer of the house, said that any poor quality movie produced would not be shown at the cinema to encourage local movie producers to improve on their works. There are indications of a high demand for local movies which Silverbird can help satisfy with the cooperation of movie producers.

"Silverbird is taking bold steps in the African retail entertainment market and the cinemas are legal and legitimate in terms of copyright and intellectual property rights, to ensure quality and security of what is put out there for Ghanaians on the silver screen." (Ghanaweb)

Silverbird Group is a wholly Nigerian owned company established in 1980, to provide contemporary family entertainment. It operates in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. The tremendous growth of the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood) as well as its severe piracy problems are well documented (see for example: Afro-IP here). For Ghana, the move by Silvergroup will test its IP laws and enforcement regime. Silverbird's experiences in Nigeria at countering the piracy threat will be helpful although this blog wonders if they have any trust in IP laws at all, given the state of the crisis so often reported out of Nigeria.

Friday, 26 June 2009

co-branding...be cool

The IPR Act attracting more comment

Natacha Rey, final year LLM (intellectual property) student at the University of Cape Town has kindly forwarded Afro Leo this insightful response to the article “Licensing technological developments funded by public money” published by Roux de Villiers, of Werksmans incorporating Jan S. de Villiers on 24 June 2009.

"The author must be commended on his novel idea of avoiding the restrictions in the Intellectual Property Rights From Publically Financed Research and Development Act ("the IPR Act"). As the Act is in force, it must be complied with. However, Roux’s suggestion of licensing IP created under the IPR Act could prove to be the first effective solution; as opposed to sceptics who simply voice their objections but proffer no practical answers. Licensing partners (preference of which should be given to local organisations) would have to agree to non-exclusivity. Roux's suggestion is that, to ensure that maximum commercialisation takes place, the licensing partner pay an upfront fee so that there is opportunity cost and risk involved. Furthermore, the licensing should be given some say as to how the IP is brought to market. In this way interest is maintained and the IP is treated accordingly.

While this is a good suggestion, it is not without its own set of problems. Could a licence really be formulated in such a way that both public and private interests benefit? With local organisations being the focus; what is the position of/benefits for an international investor? Will a licence be an effective means of achieving the set out objectives in the IPR Act? How easy would it be to control and enforce the licence agreement?"


The IPR Act is under the microscope in South Africa (see for instance Andrew Rens' blog posts here challenging the Act as eg unconstitutional ). This blogger is due to advise a client next week on how best to make use of the Act and finds these comments extremely valuable. Afro Leo's comments to follow then...

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

MIP to focus on Africa -- at last!

Managing Intellectual Property magazine is to publish its first-ever special focus on Africa in its September 2009 issue. In recognition of the growth of IP issues throughout Africa, the focus will cover general issues such as anti-counterfeiting, filing strategies and traditional knowledge protection, as well as country/region-specific issues.

The September issue will be available to all Managing Intellectual Property subscribers from September 1 and will also be distributed at several IP conferences, including the Brand Protection Show and the MARQUES, IPO and AIPPI annual meetings. For more information about the focus, and for any editorial/advertising enquiries, contact MIP's Harry Loweth.

Afro Leo is pleased to see that Africa has at last been recognised as being worth focusing on. He promises to report on the contents of the focus for the benefit of his readers.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

New Upcoming Events Feature ---->

This blog will now display an Upcoming Events for seminars, training sessions etc on the menu alongside (cast your eyes --->. Readers who wish to post events please let us know so that we can keep the event list fresh. The listing alongside features sessions posted on the ARIPO website.

...and for a discussion a why service marks are recognised in Nigeria but not yet, it seems, in Uganda see the commentary on Jeremy's post here below.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Microsoft pursues Copyright infringers in Uganda


The Newvision Newspaper in Kampala reports that Microsoft, the Seattle based software giant has hired Kampla Associated Advocates, one of Uganda's largest law firms to pursue companies that are illegally using its range of software products.

According to one of the lawyers involved, the fight will target "the downloading of unauthorised software; counterfeiting, the unauthorised manufacture and distribution of software and manufacturer piracy, the unauthorised pre-installation of software by manufacturers into computers" among others.

This action comes amidst growing hope on the side of copyright owners that the Copyright & Neighboring rights Act, 2006 will soon be implemented. Whereas increased copyright litigation and prosecution per se will not prevent widespread infringement, it is believed the culture of respecting intellectual property will start gaining recognition.

Monday Mix

South Africa: TVIEC response to SABC - Not surprisingly, the TVIEC remain unimpressed with the SABC who "continue to act with arrogance..." Filmaker South Africa reports on the TVIEC response "The SABC’s response to the Television Industry Emergency Coalition’s memorandum indicates that the management fails to appreciate the real need to work with the independent production sector to find solutions that can help shield the industry and our viewers from the present crisis....(click on Filmaker link for more)" . If you are new to the story on how IP rights/content creators have managed to help make a national television company accountable and force board resignations, click here.


Egypt: Pay-up or lose rights - As of 2 June 2009, it is possible to file a PCT national phase. As of 6 June 2009, the Registrar of Patents issued a Decision in which he changed the calculation of the dates of the annuities due on a PCT application. Earlier annuities were calculated as from the filing date of the national phase application in Egypt, while now, they are counted from the PCT international filing date. Accordingly, all due annuities on the national phase applications of PCT have to be paid retroactively according to the new calculation within 6 months from the date of decision - June 6, 2009 - otherwise, the application will lapse. (Source: NJQ & Associates)


Sudan: Making life tough for TM applicants - The Registrar of Trademarks issued new regulations regarding the power of attorney, requesting it now to be legalized up to a Sudanese Consulate. Earlier, it was simply signed. This will be effective as of 1 July 2009, and accordingly the new filing requirements are:
Power of attorney legalized.
Extract from Commercial register legalized.
At the time of registration, the applicant must submit, on its letterhead, an affidavit stating that there has been no change in the ownership or details of the owner. (Source: NJQ & Associates)


Developing nation threatens to counterfeit products - Thanks to an alert from Mary-Ellen Field, Afro Leo has encountered a very interesting response from a developing nation to its obligations under TRIPS which could lead to sanctions against the country. According to this article in respected Food&Drink.Europe.com, Tetra Pak has said it will seek immediate talks with the Venezuelan Government after the country’s president threatened to counterfeit its packaging goods in a bid to save money and reliance on foreign companies. The global packaging giant admitted it was taken back when Hugo Chavez declared that his country would no longer recognize patented products. Afro Leo wonders whether such a move has not tempted African countries or perhaps, how many.


....and finally no good news for folks waiting for the Servier judgement which is still, it seems, firmly stuck in the passage of decision.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Nice in practice ...

A circular from Lysaght & Co (St Helier, Jersey) informs Afro Leo that Uganda has adopted the Ninth Edition of the Nice Classification for trade marks, as of 9 June 2009. Apparently there is a question as to whether this move is of legal effect in the country, since the change in practice with regard to the classification of services in Classes 35 to 45 has not been accompanied by any change in the domestic legislation. It appears, however, that the Registry is accepting applications for service marks and prospective applicants are advised to take advantage of this facility.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Libya cuts trade mark filing formalities

From the current newsletter of NJQ Associates comes information that, from 1 June 2009, the Registrar has issued new regulations for simplifying the filing of trade marks. In particular,
* local legalisation of foreign-originated documents is no longer required. This saves official fees ranging from LD25 to LD120 (around €20 - €80), depending on the country of origin.

* no longer is there any need for a revised and certified translation of such documents. This saves certifying fees of Euro 55 per document.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

WIPO Announces New Senior Management Team Members

A press release from WIPO today announced approval of Director General Francis Gurry’s proposal for the new members of the Senior Management Team.  The current members’ terms end on November 30th this year.  The new terms will last until November of 2014.

The Management Team is comprised of four Deputy Director Generals and three Assistant Director Generals who help the Director General in managing WIPO.  Two of the current team members are returning, including the only African member, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama of Nigeria.  Mr. Onyeama is currently an Assistant Director General, but will serve his next term as a Deputy Director General.  The other returning member is Ms. Binying Wang of China, also switching from Assistant to Deputy.

The complete list of new members and their positions is as follows:

  • Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama of Nigeria to be Deputy Director General for Development
  • Mr. James Pooley of the United States to be Deputy Director General for Patents [currently a partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP]
  • Ms. Binying Wang of China to be Deputy Director General for Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indicators
  • Mr. Johannes Christian Wichard of Germany to be Deputy Director General for Global Issues [currently Germany’s Director General for Commercial and Economic Law]
  • Mr. Trevor C. Clarke of Barbados to be Assistant Director General for Copyright and Related Rights [currently Barbados Ambassador to the UN in Geneva]
  • Mr.Ramanathan Ambi Sundaram of Sri Lanka to be Assistant Director General for Administration and Management [currently WHO’s Director General for Operational and Support Services]
  • Mr. Yoshiyuki Takagi of Japan to be Assistant Director General for Global IP Infrastructure [currently WIPO Executive Director for Global IP Infrastructure, the WIPO Academy and Information Technology]

Outgoing members include Philippe Petit of France, Narendra Sabharwal of India, Michael Keplinger of the United States and Ernesto Rubio of Uruguay.

SABC resginations, and implosion

The television content industry (represented by the TVIEC) are able to celebrate news that their march has played a part in the resignation of three members of the SABC board with more likely to follow, and the industry's demands have achieved a reply. However, the industry remains unpaid and the SABC reply appears unsatisfactory. The industry will also be depressed to learn that the SABC also owes SuperSport nearly R100 million (approx $12million) for broadcast rights to the local Premier Soccer League, which is more than the TVIEC's combined claim, and that the SABC's R2 billion government bail-out request is unlikely to materialise soon, according to reports.

For a review of how this story has unfolded, the posts South Africa: Content Industry Marches and South Africa: Content Industry v SABC will be useful.

The Mail & Guardian carries the front page headline: SABC Implodes and Screenafrica.com has published the SABC's reply.

Co-incidentally this all happens as South Africa remembers its June 16 1976 Soweto Uprising with a national holiday.

Turning to the SABC reply dealing with intellectual property, pasted from ScreenAfrica for your convenience with comments, below:

"3. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

The Corporation takes the issue of intellectual property quite seriously [quite seriously!! an answer bound to incense the TVIEC] , which is why the SABC has funded research around this matter [what matter? Is this research or advice for SABC as a client? Afro Leo remembers the post "when is a failure to exploit, exploitation? which appears to be related"] A report was received in April with recommendations, and the report was shared with the Production Industry [If anyone has a copy please share it].

We are expecting the Industry to interrogate this report, and the IP subcommittee exists to deal with these issues arising from the report. An Indaba also needs to be finalized with all stakeholders such as the SABC, Production Industry and Government being involved to engage the matter. [sounds cumbersome] It must be stressed that it is not the SABC’s sole responsibility to deal with this matter [the SABC's own policy on IP ownership?!], but together with the Industry we need to approach government for assistance and guidance." [guidance - readers will recall that the govt is still suffering embarrassment by attempting, unsuccessfully, to protect and enforce what they claim to be their own intellectual property - egs include the "Springbok emblem" and "Congress of the People" disputes]

Altogether a vague and unsatisfactory response that is unlikely to appease the TVIEC. However, it does create the possibility that SA's copyright laws may be under scrutiny by the government quite soon.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Diamonds without the blood? A new brand emerges from SA

After all the tales about blood diamonds, it's refreshing to note that BrandChannel reports today on the emergence of a politically correct diamond brand, African Romance. This business, based in the Sandton district of Johannesburg, is operated by WakeGem (a division of the black economically empowered company WakeHold). It is said to be the first entirely black-owned diamond cutting, polishing, branding, tourism and salesroom facility in South Africa. The report says the brand uses only “100% conflict free diamonds” obtained from its Toronto partner, Etruscan Diamonds, which only employs local people.

The power of image rights

The power of image rights is no better illustrated than by this link to an article in The Guardian entitled "Endorsements block a 'major factor' in Ronaldo's move to Real Madrid".  Brand Finance specialist and brains behind Elle Mcpherson's orginal licensing model, Mary-Ellen Field, is heavily quoted:

"Ferguson's view that [commercial exploitation] takes a player's mind off the game is valid," Field said. "However, the contract between the player and licensee means they usually have to work 20 days a year at most. "With any brand building, whether it's a person or product, the more positive exposure you get, the more valuable your brand becomes. It would have been beneficial for the club and player to get as much exposure as possible."

"In 2002, United signed a 13-year £300m contract with Nike that allows the company to control the club's global licensing and retail operations. believes that if Ronaldo had been able to develop, for example, his own perfume brand, like Beckham's lucrative Pure Instinct, it would have been mutually favourable. Despite being the world and European player of the year, Ronaldo's only major deal is a recent agreement with Castrol, in contrast to Beckham's blue-chip partnerships with Armani and Adidas. "There is no downside. The player is happy with his endorsements, and the club can sell the product and get the mark-up – website sales are huge," Field said

When it comes to player management it is not often that one criticises Sir Alex but is this an indication that Manu are struggling to keep pace? Or perhaps it is another shrewd move by a manager who realises that a team is not just a collection of stars but a closely knit unit where no individual is beyond the game or the team? Either way, it is a fascinating insight into the potential power of image rights. The irony is that stars like Ronaldo and Beckham owe so much to nurturing by the likes Ferguson in creating their image. One just has to consider the deft management of both players' images following the infamous Rooney (created by Ronaldo) and Beckham send offs during crucial tournaments; on both occasions potential image annihilators. 

....which leads me to my quote of the day: ;"The intellectual property and sheer weight of experience in this Springbok squad make them one of the best ever" The Sunday Times, ahead of the Springbok v Lions test match series in South Africa this month.

Samro image change

Samro (Southern African Music Rights Organisation) seems to be trying hard to change its image following the Brenda Fassie Affair which saw them accused of not paying royalties and then suing a critic for defamation, following comments posted on this blog. Whether co-incidental or not, Samro's new website contains a frequently updated blogroll, including a five part series on how royalties are paid (see link here) and an explanation by its Chief Operating Officer, Gregory Zoghby, entitled "how royalties are distributed" on its home page. Samro's image is important for the copyright industry in Southern Africa and perhaps Africa too but it does need to be careful about how it positions itself, especially at a time like this. Their latest press release by PR company JT Communication Solutions portrays SAMRO as "representing Africa" in a piece entitled "Africa to be heard at crucial World Copyright Summit" and is bound to cause an uproar amongst Samro's critics. It is commendable that Samro is taking part in this summit but Afro Leo is wondering just what, for example, open source/access groups like the ACA2K network are going to feel about the possibility that the press release may give the impression that Samro represents their voice in Africa too.

For the link to the Press Release click : http://samroblog.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/cisa1june.pdf

Friday, 12 June 2009

How developing nations can cope with swine flu pandemic

Following the ranking of Swine flu as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, there is cause to worry, especially on how development countries will cope with the situation. Public service portal of UK here, has posted a panel discussion on how developing nations can get through such a pandemic.

With regard to patents, the panelists propose measures such as boosting generic competition to reduce the cost of drugs and using flexibilities such as compulsory licences, whereby governments authorize production of drugs without permission from the patent holder.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Delta Connection goes down to Delta Airlines in Trade mark row

Delta Connection Limited of Kenya has lost an appeal to stop execution of a High Court order restraining it from using the word DELTA on its aircraft, tickets, flight schedules and other printed materials.

In declining to set aside the High Court order, Court of Appeal Judges Riaga Amollo, Emannuel O’Okubasu and Phillip Waki ruled that the application was incompetent as it was filed under the wrong rules. In the application Delta connection argued that it did not infringe the trademark since it had started its operation in Kenya in 2004, before the US Airline registered the Trade Mark.

The American Airline, which is about to establish direct flights to Kenya moved to the High Court early this year in March and obtained the order restraining the Kenyan company from using the mark.

Following the Court of Appeal ruling the Kenyan Company has changed its name to D-Connection and is reported to have asked the government to harmonize the Companies Act and the Trade Marks Act because of “conflict between the two laws”. According to the airline’s sales Manager, the company will spend about Ksh. 10 Million in the re-branding exercise to comply with the court order. The company will however continue with the main appeal.

Nokia named top brand in East Africa

The Daily Nation reports that Nokia, the world’s leading mobile phone handset maker has emerged as the top brand in East Africa according to a survey carried out by Super brands East Africa. Nokia was voted strongly by marketing experts and consumers in a survey covering over 1,000 brands in the region.

Other top Brands include


Blue Band (margarine)
Omo (detergents)
Coca-cola (Soft drink)
Colgate (toothpaste)
Panadol (pharmaceuticals)
Mercedes Benz (vehicles)
Kimbo (cooking fat)
Bata (shoes)
Daily Nation (newspaper)
Keringet (bottled water)
Toyota (vehicles) and
Milo (beverages)

India's Protest: The Spicy [IP] Report

David's interesting post below on the latest development in the Afro-Indian counterfeit debate (which is brimming over to South America) prompted a request for comment from the excellent Spicy IP blog.

We were pleased to find that Spicy-IP's Swaraj Paul Barooah has provided a well researched piece on the developments that can be located here. Contrary to some reports the concern is not about anti-counterfeit legislation per se but the fact that it "recognises intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical products registered in any part of the world and not just in the country of export or import. This means that the intellectual property rights of a pharmaceutical product which is patented in any other country can be enforced in a sale of the generic version of that drug by India to Kenya. Currently this legislation has been enacted by Kenya, however Indian officials fear that this will also influence other African countries of export such as Uganda, Peru and Ghana."

The Afro-Indian counterfeit debate is fast becoming one of the most significant IP developments reported on by this blog. It's not about small change either. According to reports Africa accounts for 14% of India's $8 billion dollar generics industry. Kenya deserves congratulations for having enacted counterfeit legislation in the first place but this blog would welcome more African commentary on the reason for this apparently far reaching provision. 

Monday, 8 June 2009

India to send delegation to Africa over anti-counterfeit laws

According to Pharmabiz.com here , India is to send a delegation from the commerce ministry to a number of southern African countries “to allay any fears over the quality of Indian generic drugs.” The visit to the unnamed southern African countries by the delegation is meant “to counter propaganda” and “to remove misconception among the African countries”.

While it is not clear which southern Africa countries the delegation will be visiting, the visit seems to have been precipitated by the enactment of an Anti-counterfeit law in Kenya. It would appear that Uganda has recently drafted a similar bill which is worrying Indian generic drug manufacturers over certain provisions which they interpret to mean that generic drugs are classified as counterfeit.

It would seem that Indian officials are worried that other countries in Africa may follow the Kenya and Uganda example, a trend which they fear will put the Indian drug industry in jeopardy as Africa is a huge market for their generic drugs. According to the report the mission will try to persuade African countries to desist from enacting such laws.

India protest over Kenya's anti counterfeit legislation here.
India up in arms over Kenya's anti-counterfeit bill here
Diplomatic mission here
Space mission here

Victor Tieku to Develop New Collecting Org in Ghana

Mark Schultz and Alec van Gelder (mentioned here, here and here for their work "Nashville in Africa") have written a piece for Ghana News highlighting Ghanaian musician/producer Victor Tieku and the Ghanaian music industry.

Victor Tieku is striving to be Ghana's version of Ralph Peer, the man who founded the music industry in Nashville, Tennessee.  In fact, last year peermusic began collaborating with Tieku and his label, Kampsite Records.  Part of Tieku's plan involves a new method of royalty collection.  Rather than using the Copyright Society of Ghana, which is fraught with many of the same problems as other African collecting societies, artists can use Tieku's business as the intermediary for collecting royalties.

"He [Tieku] plans to set up a music publishing business that will promote and license music for radio and television, in advertisements, films, ringtones, and recordings by other musicians."

Schultz and van Gelder express a belief that this will benefit the Ghanaian industry.  Collecting societies in Africa often developed from remnants of institutions left behind by colonial powers or in mimicking developed countries.  This cart-before-the-horse scenario resulted in a situation in which countries have collecting societies but without the strong publishing company backbones needed to support the societies.  Tieku is taking the opportunity provided by Ghana's new copyright law (Section 49) that allows private "collective administration societies" to create that strong backbone.

Schultz and van Gelder also discussed other areas where Ghana is making progress and where it still needs some work to legally support growing a successful music industry.  The goods and bads are pretty much the usuals for Africa: popular music, new copyright law; lack of implementation of new law, poor enforcement, rampant piracy.  And that overwhelming common good: a lot of potential for an amazing industry.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

SARS lose twice in Court

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) find themselves on the wrong end of two recent Court decisions. 

Marius Gerber (Bowman Gilfillan) kindly forwarded Afro Leo a link to this article published at Fin24.com describing how the tax court upheld a taxpayer's claim to deduct a payment of R50m (about $5.5million) for a radio station's trade mark and name for income tax purposes. The case arose when the SABC sold off its regional radio stations in 1996 in a public bidding process. The taxpayer was the successful bidder and purchased a radio station from the SABC for R65m. R50m of the purchase price was allocated to the trade mark and the name of the station. Sars was of the view that the trade marks and the name of the radio station was not worth R50m and that the bulk of the purchase price should have been allocated to goodwill. Sars consequently disallowed the taxpayer's claim. The Court held that the Income Tax Act does not require that taxpayers perform a formal valuation of trademarks to obtain a tax deduction and there was no evidence to suggest that the contract between the taxpayer and the SABC was a sham. The article clarifies that it is no longer possible to claim a deduction for such expenditure. 

Afro Leo has always wondered about trade mark valuations and who is more qualified to do them; accountants or lawyers. In the UK his experience is that law firms were not prepared to take on the risk attached to what many consider to be a black art. In RSA however, IP lawyers feel uniquely qualified for the job. Comments welcome together with a link to the case.

Diligent Msa Gaxo (also Bowman Gilfillan) presented Afro Leo with this synopsis of the appeal decision in the Crocs/Moresport case reported on by Afro-IP last year here. Of relevance to practitioners will be these cites relating to the level of proof required for obtaining warrants for the search and seizure of counterfeit goods.

"Legal representative[s] presenting an application before a court might have an ethical duty to bring to the attention of the court issues of law that might affect its decision, but that is another matter. " “...this is clearly so, because at that stage the judge … is not required to adjudicate on the dispute on whether the goods are indeed counterfeit or not but merely to make a decision on whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that an act of dealing in counterfeit goods has taken place or is taking or is likely to take place.” The Supreme Court of Appeal accepted the submission that at that stage of the proceedings the customs officer need only satisfy the court that a prima facie case exists and is not required to prove on a preponderance of probabilities that the seized good are indeed counterfeit. The full case can be located here.

Afro Leo finds himself contemplating the balance between the dire need to stop counterfeiting by making it relatively easy to obtain search and seizure warrants, and the reality that courts with little or no knowledge of the intricacies of IP law are easily persuaded to issue warrants in circumstances where there is not likely to be an infringement at all. He suggests that this judgment leaves too much open to the vague concept of an "ethical duty" to disclose.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Nigerian Copyright Commission to Stay Under Ministry of Justice

Years ago, when former President Obasanjo was in power, the Nigerian Copyright Commission moved from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Ministry of Justice.  Though the move was ignored in many ways - newspaper articles still often discuss the Minster of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation when discussing NCC issues - it did produce some outcries and a court case.

The Nigeria General Discussion Blog brings us news that the Federal High Court has released its judgment in the case.   It is unclear from the article whether the court dismissed the suit or found in favor of the defendants.  Either way, the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society of Nigeria did not prevail in its constitutional challenge of the NCC's move.

Performing and Mechanical Rights Society of Nigeria brought a case challenging the President's ability to move the NCC from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to the Ministry of Justice.  The problem, as PMRS saw it, was that the President acted unconstitutionally by ordering the move himself, without any approval from the legislative branch.

The court held that the move was not unconstitutional.  Per Article 148(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:

The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice-President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.

For more details on the politics behind the case and other parties involved, see the Discussion Blog's full report.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Japanese money for African IP

A press release from WIPO yesterday heralds the long-awaited Japanese aid package for African IP. According to the text,
"A gathering of senior policy makers and intellectual property (IP) administrators from 36 African countries meeting in Pretoria, South Africa on May 26 and 27, 2009, to examine the importance of IP as a catalyst for economic and commercial development, marked the launch of a Japanese-financed program to promote the use of IP in Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The event, organized by WIPO in cooperation with the governments of South Africa and Japan, is part of the WIPO-administered Japanese Funds-in-Trust (FIT) Program for Africa and LDCs. The two-day meeting provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on the range of policy options available to create an enabling environment for the effective use and management of IP assets.

IP experts from Japan, Malaysia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa and African Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO), WIPO and the World Bank addressed a range of themes, including patent information as a tool for innovation; technology transfer; use of IP for business competitiveness; commercializing IP assets; value added services of IP offices; funding of scientific research and innovation; and IP development from a regional perspective.

Participants also discussed concrete proposals for future activities to be implemented within the framework of the FIT program and expressed appreciation for Japan’s generosity in establishing it.

...

Japan has supported a number of WIPO-administered projects through extra-budgetary funding since 1987. Through these channels, Japan shares its experience in the use of intellectual property for wealth creation, enhanced competitiveness and economic development".
Afro Leo wonders, not for the first time, whether the expenditure involved in flying IP administrators, WIPO officials and national diplomats around the world and putting them up in comfy hotels is justifiable. Why not let these blameless souls communicate via teleconferencing -- a technology which has been working in a most satisfactory manner since the previous century -- so that the money saved might be better spent in investment in the IP infrastructure of those countries that need it most?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

South Africa going orange: iBurst again

Why it is that everyone seems to want exclusivity to the colour orange? The latest decision on single colour exclusivity comes from the highly effective Advertising Standards Authority which denied iBurst protection, for the second time.

Sarah-Jane Pluke, a partner at IP specialists
Moore Attorneys, successfully argued for Neotel twice now (this is an appeal decision) that iBurst should be denied its request for relief. Her report on BizCommunity can be located here.
"...assuming that advertising goodwill could arise out of the widespread and sustained use of a colour, it would have to be shown by an advertiser that it had exclusively made use of the colour and had through such exclusivity of use, acquired protectable property in such use."

Afro Leo wonders whether there is an irony that iBurst may themselves be accused by Orange Telecom of misappropriating the colour orange under the far-reaching ASA code, which also states, controversially, that: "An advertiser should not copy an existing advertisement, local or international, or any part thereof in a manner that is recognisable or clearly evokes the existing concept and which may result in the likely loss of its potential advertising value. This will apply notwithstanding the fact that there is no likelihood of confusion or deception or that the existing concept has not been generally exposed." For the ECJ ruling on colours (co-incidentally also orange click here)...it seems though, that only a lemon takes on an orange these days.

And...South Africa’s television content industry is gearing up for its protest action against public broadcaster SABC’s financial and management crisis this afternoon in Johannesburg and Cape Town at 12 noon. For details of the protest click
here. For the Afro-IP and IP Finance views click here and here.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Ugandan authorities squeeze imported toothpaste tubes

Here, courtesy of Afro Leo's friend and fellow-blogger Louise O'Callaghan, comes news that the Commercial Court has ordered the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to detain consignments of “Collage Herbal Toothpaste” that had been sent to the Kampala Stocks Supermarket until a case against it is heard. This followed an application by Colgate-Palmolive seeking a temporary order restraining Kampala Stocks Supermarket from collecting the goods currently under URA custody, saying the firm had infringed its trade mark rights and was also committing acts of passing off.

Collage Herbal Toothpaste is made in China. According to Alibaba the producer can supply 200,000 units a day.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Nigeria's (and Africa's) Drug Problem

Yesterday Afro Leo had the privilege of joining Jeremy and Duncan Bucknell (IP Think Tank) in a podcast discussing the latest developments in the IP world. One of the questions posed by Duncan was whether Africa had the infrastructure to produce its own drugs. The answers were somewhat sceptical though Afro Leo admits that he is largely ignorant of the actual position. By co-incidence, this morning, Afro Leo was alerted to an article prefaced with the blurb" Local and international scientists, researchers, pharmacists and other stakeholders in natural and traditional health products converged on Abuja recently to showcase and give insight to their research efforts. After the meeting, it was discovered that if most of the research results are produced into drugs and commercialised, Africa will meet half of its drugs need." Afro Leo read the article penned by Roland Ogbonnaya with some enthusiasm but only to find out that the scepticism is well founded, at least in so far as Nigeria is concerned and perhaps throughout Africa.

"... little or nothing is done by African countries, including Nigeria to develop and produce their vaccines and drugs even from readily available natural products. This is  not due to lack of research results, waiting to be commercialised or as a resulted of lack of manpower and organisations to engage in this, but largely due to lack of or no political will at all on the part of governments. "

"Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, the CEO of Neimeth Nigeria Limited in his presentation, explained the seamless gulf that has existed between researchers and pharmaceutical companies. He said pharmaceutical companies have not been able to work with researchers in turning their findings to real drugs, because of lack of the huge amount of money required to take up such projects as well as a gulf in communication between the two. He said that banks need to come in with adequate funding when there is such a research result that needs to produce into commercial drug."

Afro Leo concludes that for most of Africa there seems to be little or no infrastructure available to manufacture drugs despite calls by frustrated researchers and a dire need (eg HIV and its catastrophic effect on the workforce) that he feels, governments can hardly ignore . The article does explain though that some progress has been made in Nigeria to address the problem.