Model IPR Support Services for SMEs : Part II

Introduction

In the last issue on the subject, i.e., the first in this series, we covered some of the best and noteworthy practices in providing public IPR support services from Japan, South Korea, and Denmark. Many other countries have also devised a number of smart services to promote the use of IP system in SME sector, some of which we cover hereunder.

Australia

Australian ‘Smart Start’ Awareness Raising Programme

‘Smart Start’ an IP awareness raising programme of the Australian patent office is special in several aspects: It introduces the concept of IP usage and protection particularly to people who are keen to start their own enterprise or who want to acquire an already existing company. It follows the rationale that when new ideas arise for creating a start-up or buying stakes in other companies, the implication of protecting or not protecting IP has to be clearly understood and dealt with accordingly. The programme gives substantial hands on information to beginners regarding a wide range of IP protection possibilities – not the least with regard to informal protection mechanisms. IP Australia also provides a downloadable Windows based application package on “Confidentiality Agreement Generator” on its website, along with business plan templates that help boosting the morale of young entrepreneurs and making them understand the value and different types of IP and treating them as business assets.

Australian IP Toolbox

IP toolbox is an online guide to the practical use and management of intellectual property (IP) and covers excellent notes on IP issues and concepts. It is an essential and useful guide for all IP owners and managers. Besides, ‘Confidentiality Agreement Generator’, this site also provides a Windows based ‘Contract Agreement Generator’ downloadable package. The site is an excellent resource for entrepreneurs on IP management, protection and commercialization aspects. It also provides a number of inspiring case studies from Australian businesses.

Australian TM HeadStart

TM Headstart which is a sub-section of the Trade-Mark section of the IP Australia website is an excellent resource and guide for young entrepreneurs to understand the value of trade mark for their businesses. The site also hosts various other trade mark related services including ATMOSS – The Australian Trade Marks Online Search SystemTrade Marks Image Viewer and Business Names Applicant Search Service

Canada

Canadian IP Bank of Speakers Initiative

The IP Bank of Speakers is a collaborative effort of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC). Under this initiative, three free intellectual property (IP) presentations to public and private organizations across Canada are delivered by empanelled experts. This helps to enable business people to become familiar with IP as a strategic business instrument.

IPIC is the primary professional association of patent and trade-mark agents in Canada. Speakers are IP practitioners and members of IPIC, who volunteer their time to deliver a basic IP Awareness presentation. The programmes under this initiative introduce basic concepts such as the importance and strategic use of IP; an introduction to trade secrets, patents, trade-marks, copyrights and industrial designs; useful resources and tips; links to IP publications and online tools; and contact information.

United States of America

USA – The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) Programme

SCORE is a source of free and confidential business advice to help build small businesses from idea, to start-up and, eventually, to commercial success. SCORE uses more than 13,000 volunteers drawn from working and retired business owners, executives, and corporate leaders in 350 chapters located across the U.S. to assist small businesses with all aspects of business counselling and training, including intellectual property issues, without charge. An active online counselling initiative allows small businesses to search for a counsellor in a given specialty, such as protecting IP.

In 2009, SCORE volunteers donated more than 1.4 million hours of business advice, mentoring and workshop sessions. The SCORE Small Business Web Site is a popular site for small business owners, with a wide range of business resources and “how-to” information. The site also hosts Ask SCORE, which provides entrepreneurs and small business owners access to more than 1,650 email counselors with more than 600 areas of business expertise.

SCORE Counseling Activity Nationwide projects following figures

  • SCORE has helped more than 9 million people since 1964.
  • SCORE volunteers donated 1.4 million hours to the small business community in 2010.
  • 444,723 new clients received mentoring or training.
  • 106,216 online counseling cases were conducted via the SCORE Web site in 2010.
  • 283,150 people participated in SCORE workshops.

USA – STOPFAKES.GOV

The Stopfakes.gov website sponsored jointly by the US Department of State, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and US Trade Representative is established essentially to tackle piracy and counterfeiting besides disseminating awareness programmes on IPR in the interest of US small businesses.

SME IPR Training Tutorial available in English, French & Spanish covers the following topics at Stopfakes.gov:

  • Introduction to IP Protection
  • Need for IP Protection for Business
  • Understanding Different Types of IPRs
  • How to Obtain and Protect IPRs in the United States
  • Other Means of Protecting IPRs in the United States
  • Obtaining and Protecting IPRs Abroad
  • How to Enforce IPRs

International IPR Advisory Program available through the website is a collaborative initiative between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the American Bar Association’s (ABA) allows American small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to request a free, one-hour consultation with a volunteer attorney knowledgeable in both industry IPR issues and a particular country to learn how to protect and enforce their IPR, such as trademarks, patents, or copyrights, in that country. Expertise is now available for Angola, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Towards tackling counterfeiting and piracy, the US Administration has developed the Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP!) initiative, a comprehensive and coordinated U.S. government effort to smash the criminal networks that traffic in fakes; stop trade in pirated and counterfeit goods at America’s borders; block bogus goods around the world; and help small businesses secure and enforce their rights in overseas markets. The USPTO’s Small Business Education Campaign is part of this comprehensive government-wide effort to curb IP crime and strengthen IP enforcement – both domestically and overseas. The USPTO maintains a toll-free telephone hotline, 1-866-999-HALT, as part of the Administration’s Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP!) initiative that businesses can call for help.

USA / European Commission – STOPFAKES.GOV

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission’s Directorate General (DG) for Enterprise and Industry have developed the Transatlantic IPR Resource Portal to make it easier for transatlantic small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to find and use the resources that both governments have developed to protect and enforce intellectual property rights. This initiative is in response to the realization that SMEs across the continents are disproportionately affected by the costs of overcoming barriers to trade, especially in a critical area like protecting their intellectual property.

The Transatlantic IPR Portal informs the SMEs on the following aspects:

  • Cost of an IPR in Europe
  • Assessing SME’s Intellectual Property
  • IPR Guides for Specific Industries
  • IPR protection at trade fairs
  • Registering IPR and National IP Offices Services of EU Member States
  • Strategy and management of IPR
  • Case studies

 The TransAtlantic IPR Portal also provides country-specific IPR Toolkits for various foreign countries, i.e, Brazil, Brunie, China, Croatia, Egypt, European Union, India, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. These IPR toolkits contain detailed information on protecting IPR in key markets around the world.

Further Reading

Foot Note: We have covered in the previous article some of the best practices on the subject from Japan, South Korea, and Denmark and in this article from Australia, Canada and United States of America. Some of the other noteworthy best practices in other countries, e.g., United Kingdom, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France will be covered in subsequent article(s).

Model IPR Support Services for SMEs : Part I

Introduction

There has been a heightened interest for raising awareness about ‘intellectual property’ issues and their management in the SME sector all over the world in recent years. The genesis to this development lies in the realisation of the fact that there is significant discrepancy between SMEs’ important contribution to the economy and their low use of the intellectual property system and that systematic efforts are required by policy makers and regulatory agencies to promote the use of the intellectual property (IP) system by SMEs. To fulfil these aspirations, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), brought special focus on SMEs with respect to IPR by creating a SME Division since 2000.

The SME Division has since made pioneering efforts on various facets of these issues and ensured that member countries provide effective services to SMEs that encourages better use of IP system within their jurisdictions. The website of SME Division of WIPO provides details of services being offered in various countries in this area. These services range from best practices in awareness raising, training, professional advice, dedicated services, IPR enforcement and general helpdesk and are now being offered by complex array of agencies invariably in conjunction with other business support services and / or other academic renderings.

National Patent Offices in Europe along with other development agencies and academic institutions have shown great interest and enthusiasm in putting in place some kind of IP support systems for SMEs since the turn of this millennium, even though enforcement of IP is a major concern. With the plethora of all kind of IP support measures for SMEs mushrooming all over Europe with varying degrees of success and impact, the European Commission recently commissioned KM Forschung of Austria to carry out a benchmarking study of IP support systems across Europe and elsewhere. The final benchmarking report – a highly recommendable reference document for policy makers, also cautions the readers that the aim in the context of SMEs should ideally be on implementing a rational IPR strategy balancing formal and informal IP assets of the company instead of too heavily focussing on patent filings and regarding that as a true measure of innovation performance. The report, nonetheless, highlights the elements of innovative and good practices of public IP support in a number European and non-European countries.

Some of the best practices being adopted in this area from across the world as reported in the above reference and elsewhere are highlighted on a selective basis in this article.

Japan: The IPR Strategy and the Pledge for an IP Culture

Sheer magnitude of the efforts of Japan to pursue a national IPR strategy following a policy statement of Prime Minister Koizumi on February 4, 2002, the goal “…to become an intellectual-property based nation” to strengthen its global competitiveness creates a favourable environment for IPR usage with SMEs. To establish an IP culture in Japan, an Intellectual Property Strategic Programme is being pursued since 2003. JPO, the Japanese Patent Office provides comprehensive support through various measures to SMEs which are suitably integrated with venture capital firms that sustain the industrial foundation in Japan.

Traditionally, the Japanese innovation system has suffered from two phenomena, known popularly as i) donation system and ii) keiretsu system that have grave implications for promoting IPR culture in SME sector. The ‘donation system’ refers to the technology transfer operations taking place between university professors and large Japanese multinational corporations as a result of which big companies appropriated most of the university based inventions and discoveries through a system of endowments and assignments of patents. This direct and close relationship between large Japanese companies and the universities virtually leave no scope for SMEs to get any benefit of the new inventions. The ‘keiretsu’ system refers to long term collaboration and partnership between large firms and established SMEs, according to which the later produce goods on behalf of their larger counterparts. This makes it very difficult for new SMEs to enter the market.

Following the identification of these two main shortcomings in the Japanese innovation system with regard to IPR in the SME sector, state intervention was considered necessary. Thus an IP strategy designed by the “Intellectual Property Strategic Headquarters” has been especially set up for this purpose. A task force commissioned in 2005 by the IPR Headquarters elaborated on measures to promote the intellectual property strategies of small and medium-sized companies. The programme is stated to list as many as 450 support measures to address IPR usage and awareness in SMEs, in education, at universities and the general public.Some of the noteworthy services are described below:

Specific Support Services in Japan

Free consultation with Patent Information Advisors

The National Centre for Industrial Property Information and Training (INPIT) is said to depute Patent Information Advisors to various locations in response to requests from regional authorities for advising SMEs on exploitation of patent information through consultation meetings and workshops free of charge.

Support through Patent Licensing Advisors

INPIT also deputes patent licensing advisors, who are experts with a wealth of knowledge and experience on intellectual property rights and technology transfers, upon request from local governments and technology licensing organizations with the aim of patent licensing to SMEs and venture companies owned by universities, public research institutions, and companies.

Free Prior Art Searches for SMEs

In order to support proper assessment as to whether an examination should be requested or not, private searching organizations commissioned by the JPO perform prior art searches free of charge for patent applications of SMEs and individuals prior to requests for examination, upon request of the applicant, and deliver the search results by mail.

Fiscal Measures for SMEs in Patent Prosecution Process

JPO has designed a series of fiscal measures to support SMEs in the patent prosecution process, i.e.,

  1. exemption or 50% reduction of examination request fees for individuals or companies, especially those dedicated to R&D.
  2. accelerated examinations / accelerated appeal and trial examinations
  3. exemption from or 50% reduction of the patent annual fees (from the first year to the third year)

Knowledge Dissemination

Japanese knowledge dissemination and awareness programme for IP management, especially aimed at SMEs is most comprehensive. Extensive support is provided in areas of human resources development activities related to intellectual property for local companies and SMEs, seminars for SMEs on strategic acquisition of intellectual property rights that meet regional needs etc.

Support from Development Banks to SMEs in the field of IPR

This support service extended by development banks in Japan stands out clearly as most notable which is not easily seen elsewhere. Their main activity area with respect to IPR is advice, valuation and acceptance of IPR as collateral in the credit business; however, different financial institutions employ different criteria and target different customer groups (e.g., SMEs, individuals etc.). Some of the well known banks active in this line of service are as follows:

  1. Development Bank of Japan
  2. Okinawa Development Finance Corporation
  3. National Life Insurance Corporation
  4. Shoko Chukin Bank Network
  5. Japan Finance Corporation for Municipal Enterprises

IPR Support Services for SMEs in South Korea

Free Patent Management Services for SMEs

In December, 2000, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and the Korea Patent Attorneys Association (KPAA) signed a business cooperation agreement to initiate a partnership to offer free patent management services from pre-filing to registration. Currently, more than 700 patent agents throughout Korea provide free consultation services to SMEs which satisfy the necessary conditions as a “SME” stipulated by Korean law. (http://www.kpaa.or.kr)

Fee Reductions for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

According to the Fee Regulation approved from time to time, KIPO also provides fee reductions of up to 50% for SMEs and up to 70% for micro enterprises as defined by the Korean law to encourage IP creation & acquisition activities.

Free Education on Patent Information Systems to Patent Applicants

To promote further utilization of patent information and to enhance its services for the general public including SMEs, KIPO provides applicants with free education on the patent information search system through ‘Patent/Utility Model Search System’ at KIPO’s offices in Seoul and Daejon which was designed originally for in-house use of the KIPO Examiners.

A new internet based service, ‘Korea Industrial Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS)’ has also been now launched allowing remote searches of all IP related systems, such as patent, utility model, design, and trademark from (http://www.kipo.go.kr) and also from the Korea Industrial Property Rights Information Center (KIPRIC) (http://www.kipris.or.kr), an affiliate of KIPO.

Free lectures, contact and practice-oriented education programmes on patent information search are also provided by KIPO patent examiners and KIPRIC experts.

Internet Patent Technology Market (http://www.patentmart.or.kr)

provides an information database of domestic patents, to facilitate on-line transactions of patented technologies. A bimonthly Patent Mart Journal is also brought out on available technologies particularly based on patents for commercialization.

Other Services

In addition to the above, there are several other activities organised by different institutions in the development sector with their regional offices. These are in the nature of i) IPR Acquisition Campaign for SMEs, ii) Guidebooks, iii) IP Information and Digital Library, iv) Patent Analysis and Mapping Service.

Denmark’s Patent and Trademark Office (DKPTO)

DKPTO has a unique distinctive customer service orientation, as all support services start with assessment of the needs of SME target groups. These services relate mainly to patents, utility models, trademarks and designs. DKPTO is stated to have transformed itself from a traditional Patent Office concerned with receiving and registering patent information to one that actively promotes the business exploitation of intellectual property, both directly and in co-operation with a range of other agencies.

The service approach and pro-active marketing of customer support seems to be the result of the basic requirement for the DKPTO to be self-financing. The organisation is in a strong position to develop new services, particularly those relating to IPR enforcement.

DKPTO now operates more like a business outfit with a clear mission and vision statements and poses itself as natural choice of business partner. DKPTO provides a number of professional services, particularly for information and support services An English-language website offers an international service. Basic information products are provided for free, while more advanced and tailored services are provided at a charge. On-line searching facility of a range of IPR databases is offered free of charge.

Key Services of DKPTO

Access for IPR professionals

Services specifically tailored to individual clients make use of the expertise of DKPTO staff for novelty analysis, validity analysis, technical state-of-art analysis etc.

Training Programmes

Extensive training programmes are being offered by DKPTO to enterprises in a variety of forms as workshops and seminars at various places in Denmark, viz., DKPTO’s headquarters and regional offices, incubators, innovation centres, technological institutes, universities, business schools etc. and often in association with partner institutions. Course material can be delivered on-line or can be tailored for in-house delivery on the enterprise’s own premises.

IPR Enforcement

The Danish Government, through DKPTO, has made the fight against piracy and counterfeiting a major priority and effective steps are being taken with effect from 2008 with DKPTO staff having particular responsibility for enforcement matters as well.

Some of the other core services of DKPTO for its customers via its dedicated website include the following:

IP Watch

A service for regular surveillance of desired technology areas, activity of competitors etc. is provided through an online tool dubbed as ‘IP Survey’. It helps searching through electronic database of patents that is updated regularly. The user can set up his personal access through his login id and can analyse all collected patents in his archive and can also add desired keywords, labels and comments on the individual patent references.

IP Response

A management tool developed by DKPTO available free of charge to its regular customers that helps test their company’s work with regard to IP. The online test takes the users through 20 questions concerning various aspects of their work with IPR. Based on the answers, it generates a report with an overview of efforts of the company of the users with suggestions on how to improve further.

IP-Marketplace

This is one of the latest facilities launched on the website in September 2007 that helps enterprises to buy and sell patents, arrange licensing and find business partners.

Further Reading

Making Patents Work for SMEs

Introduction

The small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs), especially in the industrial sector have been in the centre of policy initiatives of their respective Government agencies recently with much avowed interest and commitment to enhance their global competitiveness. Among other things such as leveraging productivity, energy efficiency, cost control etc., there is sharp focus of enhancing their awareness about their in-house ‘intellectual assets’ and protection through ‘intellectual property rights (IPR)’.

Intellectual property in general and patents, in particular, have come to be realised as an important part of business strategy all over the world now. This is all too well known to the corporate sector and the multi-national corporations who play this game, known as ‘Competitive Intelligence’ conscientiously. But the situation with regard to SMEs is much different characterised by lack of awareness and disregard for ‘intellectual property’. Patents are by nature competitive instruments – and can give enormous advantage to the holders, irrespective of the size of their firms. It is of interest, therefore, to review the general scenario of patents and IP with regard to small businesses in India and elsewhere.

In the context of high tech start-up, IP assumes a key part of the value of a technology start-up. This means that start-up must take early decision on key items of IP with concrete steps for ownership and a firm IP strategy and a real budget for it in the business plan. The execution of IP strategy gives the start-up a clear understanding of IP landscaping as well as the value of start-up – paving the way for growth, partnership, merger, acquisition or exit to the advantage of the promoter. Most SMEs are, however, out of the ambit of such technical understanding of IP issues.

Indian MSMEs

With enactment of ‘Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Act (MSME Act)’ in 2006 and a rechristened ministry with the same name to cover even the micro level units and encompassing all enterprises meaning thereby to also include the service industry and other miscellaneous businesses, the interests of SMEs now fall with this ministry. The MSME definition of a medium scale industry in the manufacturing sector is a unit with an investment not exceeding `100m and that of small industry about half this limit. The service oriented businesses have about half of these investment limits.

The number of MSMEs in India is estimated to be over 13 million, employing over 42 million. The export from the MSME sector is estimated at around US$ 40 billion during 2005-06. Further, with the ten-fold increase in the permissible investment limit, the sector is estimated to account for up to 45% of the manufacturing output of India and nearly 40% of the national exports. The MSME sector has consistently registered a higher growth rate than the overall industrial sector. During 2006-07, the MSME sector in India registered a growth rate of 12.6%, as compared to the overall industrial growth of 11.5%. The total number of products contributed by MSME sector is estimated to be around 6,500 ranging from traditional to high-tech items.

Patenting activity by SMEs in India is quite modest as compared to many advanced countries. Despite significant increase in patent filing in recent years, about 80% patents are filed by foreigners or foreign companies in India. Patenting by Indian industry and other institutions barring a few can be considered quite low as compared with international standards.

A recent study done on patenting in India from the data collected through Patent Agents reveals that the industrial clients who availed their services during 2001-2006 in obtaining patents were 52.3 % from SME sector, 43.6 % from large sector and 12.2 % from MNCs sector. Further, the patents obtained as percentage of those filed constituted ~25% in automotive sector (as process patents) and as much as 43% in electrical sector (also as process patents), whereas the same in biotechnology and food technology as 20.7 % product patents constituted and 13.8 percent respectively. There was no patenting activity in textiles, ceramics / non-metallic etc.

A recent news item, however, brings a much positive and favourable report; the intellectual property facilitation centre (IPFC) for MSMEs at the National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (NI-MSME) is expecting 25 IPR (intellectual property rights) fillings by March 2011. Considering that the centre is barely an year old in its existence and has been conducting IPR awareness programmes in different clusters, such as imitation jewellery, bulk drugs and pharma, electronics / IT and automotive industry, the above indications are certainly heartening.

Ministry of MSME IPR Campaign

The campaign launched by the Ministry of MSME as an initiative on IPR during the 11th Five Year Plan of the Government of India has the following features:

Areas covered: Trade Secret, Industrial Design, G.I., Patents, Copyrights, and Trademark
Total Project cost - Rs. 550 m for 5 years
Planned activities - 150 Awareness & Sensitization Programmes – 30 Pilot Studies with Assns./Clusters – 50 Interactive Seminars / Workshops – 50 Short / 10 Long Term Training of IPR Cadre for MSMEs – 40 IP Facilitation Centres
Financial Assistance - Patent @ Rs.25,000 for Domestic, Rs.200,000 for Int’l – GI Regn. – Rs. 100,000 per case

As a follow up of MSME policies and programmes, several state Governments, viz., Haryana, Gujarat etc. have several schemes of extending support to SMEs for patent filing and for various awareness programmes.

Small Business Advocacy (SBA) – USA

Survey – 1 : 1988 -98 revealed that the percentage of international patents grew faster for small businesses than for large businesses during this period even though their overall share in international patents remains small. However, small business patents are more likely to be among the rare patents that “hit the jackpot” in value: they represent a higher percentage of both the top one percent and the top 10 percent of patents most often cited in other patent applications. This has been particularly notable in the fields of communications, computers, and miscellaneous electrical technologies.

Survey – 2 : 2002 -2006 revealed that small firms are a significant source of innovation and patent activity. Small businesses develop more patents per employee than larger businesses, with the smallest firms, those with fewer than 25 employees, producing the greatest number of patents per employee. Furthermore, small firm patents tend to be more significant than large firm patents, outperforming them in a number of categories including growth, citation impact, and originality. Finally, small firms tend to specialize in high tech, high growth industries, such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, information technology, and semiconductors.

Patenting French SMEs

INPI, the French Patent Office carried out a survey studying the characteristics and behaviour of SMEs filing patent applications during the year 1999 through the national route. In total, 1,408 separate SMEs were identified among 2,735 French corporate bodies which filed about 1800 patent applications in that year which was about 19% of all the patent applications filed by the corporate bodies.

Among the SMEs included in the survey, about 62% could be clearly identified as belonging to specific industry sector and mainly large-size SMEs with more than 50 employees exhibited the following distribution:

    • the production of machinery and equipment, particularly the manufacture of farm machinery and machinery for the food-processing industry (13%)
    • metal-related industry (11%)
    • medical and surgical equipment, scientific and technical instruments (primarily small-sized companies with less than 50 employees) (7%)
    • service industries comprising of consultancy and engineering firms (20.7%)

Further insight into the behaviour of French patenting SMEs was obtained through questionnaire responses revealing that about one third of patentees were first time applicants and nearly all of the SMEs did receive financial support for R&D, innovation etc. from a Govt. agency.

Like USA and France above, there are reports from various other countries such as Japan, Korea, Canada etc. where patenting activity of SMEs is keenly monitored and effective support mechanism exist. In Korea, for example, where SMEs constitute as much as 98% of the total industry, the Patent Office (KIPO) has set up as many as 30 IP centres throughout the country – to spread awareness of IP issues and to extend support for patent filing. Among other things, consultancy of ‘IP Audit’ for small firms also assumes significance.

Despite reasonable success, performance of SMEs in patenting in these countries is still regarded poor by their authorities perhaps against international benchmarks set by large industry. Another reason for sustained interest in raising IP awareness in SMEs could be due to growing international trade by SMEs for which foreign markets pose both as an opportunity as well a potential threat of infringement. The SME Division of WIPO has conscientiously helped various Patent Offices across the world to develop their capacity to deal with issues that are important for SMEs in their countries.

The Challenge of IPR Enforcement

- A key Issue in EU

While IPR is recognized as a key element in competitive advantage for SMEs, their competitiveness, creativity and innovative abilities are threatened by counterfeiting, piracy and uncertainty about how to enforce their rights. Practical support for IPR enforcement is rather patchy and, at present, far less developed than the promotion of general awareness of IPR.

European Union has shown a greater interest in overcoming this menace in recent years particularly since many European SMEs have been adversely affected by unchecked infringement of their patents and designs not only in countries such as USA and China but also within Europe.

A recent EU conference with stakeholders of European National Patent Offices recognized that SME support organizations need to improve their services in the area of IPR enforcement and linked to innovation support system. There are online directives for European SMEs on ensuring protection of IP in China to ward off any threat of infringement. There are also instructions online for precautionary measures while participating in trade fairs in China to and to seek administrative or civil enforcement of IP, if required.

Our Experience with Indian SMEs

Many SMEs that we have dealt with were not at all familiar with intellectual property rights. Few could make a distinction between trade-mark, copyright and a patent and tend to have vague ideas about these. Worst of all, some regarded patent as some form of mandatory registration something like company registration that would allow them to carry on their business without undue hassle from the regulatory agencies.

We find many such firms exposed to risk because their intellectual property assets lay unrecognised as forms of intellectual property. Many of these firms are possibly infringing on others’ intellectual property rights, simply because they did not know about intellectual property.

Interestingly, however, many SMEs appear to have developed remarkable technical skills and knowledge in their line of production without any in-house scientific and technical personnel. Clearly, their sources of knowledge are through informal channels which they tend to keep secret. Nonetheless, these dubious means of development of their business put severe limitation to further growth and competitiveness. Even when these SMEs have been able to carry out some innovation on the shop floor or through some in-house R&D, they are often reluctant to file a patent for fear of infringement. Invariably, however, almost all of them showed keen interest in copies of granted patents in fields closely related to their production.

The fear of infringement is more palpable in ‘design’. We found several small firms full of creativity capable of coming out with innovative designs in the fields such as furniture design, cutlery designs, designs of toilet fittings etc. It is asserted that copying of designs in these areas is so rampant that IP enforcement is unthinkable. Thus, IP enforcement is assuming a great deal of significance when it comes to promoting IPR in SMEs.

Connecting Small Firms with Patents

It is important to realise that the growing patent inventory world over is now freely searchable including those of countries such as China, Japan, Korea etc. with their English translations. With little familiarity of various databases, it is relatively easy to get an insight and knowledge in specific domains of technology. Most of these free databases also provide a facility to search patents through some kind of classification system, i.e., international patent classification (IPC), European classification (ECLA) etc.

Use of patent databases for technical information is not yet as common in developed countries as well but there is no doubt why it can not be used more frequently for creating interest and awareness among SMEs. The figure below depicts the usage of patent databases by non-patent applicant SMEs as against the applicants in different sectors.

Figure 1

To demonstrate the utility of database search for SMEs of fruit processing cluster, a search of European patent database (worldwide) was carried out using European classification codes. The patents that can be accessed with main area of inventions are show in the following table.

ECLA Codes Field of Invention / Cluster Patents
A23C3 Preservation of milk and milk products 3998
A23L1/223 Dried spices 401
A23L1/00N Peeling or cleaning of harvested fruit, vegetables 579
A23N7 Peeling devices, equipment, machines 2356
A23B7 Preservation or ripening 14179
A23B7/005 By heating 341
A23B7/01 By irradiation 199
A23B7/04 By freezing / cooling 584
A23B7/10 By acid fermentation 1332
A23B7/16 By coating 1649

References

  • A Arundel and E Steinmueller, The Use of Patent Databases by European Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Vol 10, No. 2, 1998 pp 157-173
  • SMEs As Patent Applicants – The dossiers from the Observatory for Intellectual Property, INPI, France – December, 2004
  • Anthony Breitzman, and. Diana Hicks, An Analysis of Small Business Patents by. Industry and Firm Size, Small Business Administration – Office of Advocay – USA, November 2008 (www.sba.gov/advo/research/rs335tot.pdf)
  • C J Isom, Ceteris, Inc., David R. Jarczyk, Ceteris, Inc , Innovation in Small Businesses: Drivers of Change and Value, Small Business Administration – Office of Advocay – USA, March 2009 (www.sba.gov/advo/research/rs342tot.pdf)
  • Jawhar Sircar, Additional Secretary, MSME (September 2008 | www.i4donline.net)
  • Manisha Sridhar, Sudhir K Jain and Vinaysheel Gautam, Journal of Intellectual Property Rights, vol14, March 2009, pp142-148
  • EU Conference on ‘Making IPR Work for SMEs’: Brussels: 27 April 2009

Searching Climate Change Patents

Introduction

There is an increased awareness of the threat of global warming and the climate change issues now. Many environmental, economic and social issues find common ground in mitigation of global warming through limiting and/or reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Undoubtedly, therefore, there is range of possible technological solutions attracting the attention of researchers. Technological solutions and breathtaking inventions are emerging throughout the world on different dimensions as covered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It should not be surprising to see these inventions getting increasingly patented throughout the world in different countries.

It is of interest to search these patents available widely in online databases to researchers and policy makers for various reasons particularly for advancement of knowledge and further research. Patent search, however, is getting more specialized skill not commonly available with active bench scientists and researchers working in their own highly advanced areas.

WIPO Initiative on IPC Green Inventory

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) launched on September 16, 2010 an on-line tool that is associated with International Patent Classification (IPC) system. It is believed that this will help in identifying existing and emerging green technologies, as well as potential partners for further R&D and commercial exploitation.

The IPC Green Inventory contains some 200 topics / technological terms recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Each such topic is linked with the most relevant IPC symbol(s), chosen by experts from around the world. Furthermore, these identified IPC symbols are hyperlinked to WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE service to automatically search and show all “green” international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The PCT was concluded in 1970 and has been amended a couple of times since then. As on date, there are 142 contracting states. It is open to States party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). The Treaty makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in each of a large number of countries by filing an “international” patent application. Such an application may be filed by anyone who is a national or resident of a Contracting State. It may generally be filed with the national patent office of a Contracting State or directly with the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva.

Besides maintaining and facilitating filing and prosecution of “international” patent applications, WIPO also maintains an online searchable database of patents – known as PATENTSCOPE. This system enables to do search in over 1.76 million published international patent applications (PCT) and in more than 3 million when including patent documents from Regional and National collections. The database continues to be updated with addition of more and more national collections. Presently, the system has been integrated with national collection of patent data from Russia, Korea, ARIPO, Cuba, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam, South Africa, Israel and Argentina.

International Patent Classification

It is a system primarily used to classify and search patent documents according to the technical fields they pertain. It therefore serves as an instrument for an orderly arrangement of the patent documents, a basis for selective dissemination of information and a basis for investigating the state of the art in given fields of technology. The classification scheme presently contains about 70,000 entries, i.e. classification symbols that can be allotted to patent documents. These classification symbols are arranged in a hierarchical, tree-like structure into sections, classes, sub-classes, groups and sub-groups. The IPC contains about 70,000 groups, ten percent of which are the main groups. IPC is used in more than 100 countries in the world. The IPC is thus a lingua franca of the patent classification; thus with an identified IPC symbol related to a technological field of inetrest, it is easy to search patents through this symbol from various databases usually available online freely.

Themes of Green Inventory

The WIPO initiative of ‘IPC Green Inventory’ has picked up the following themes in relation to the focus areas of UNFCCC: a) Alternative Energy Production b) Transportation, c) Energy Conservation, d) Waste Management e) Agriculture / Forestry, f) Administrative, Regulatory or Design Aspects and g) Nuclear Power Generation . There are a number of priority areas within each theme for identification of IPC symbols matching with the technical scope of inventions reported in the patents bearing these IPC symbols. As already stated above, there are more than 200 topics / technological areas provided in this list. A section of these topics / technological areas along with the relevant IPC symbols identified by WIPO is provided in the Table below.

The power and usefulness of this new tool developed by WIPO can be gauged from the information provided in this Table itself where the first column gives the topic of scientific field and the second column gives the relevant IPC symbols along with number of related patents that are accessible from PATENTSCOPE as on date; with time, however, these numbers would increase with addition of newer patents in the database. The IPC symbols shown in this Table are also active and hyper-linked with WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE database. Thus clicking on each of these symbols can instantly give a list of patents from this database as per the number shown in the parentheses.

TOPIC IPC Symbol (No. of Published
Int’l Patent Application)

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PRODUCTION
Bio-fuels
Solid fuels .
C10L 5/00 (80), 5/40 (64) - 5/48 (64)
.
Biodiesel .
C07C 67/00 (104), 69/00 (199),
C10G (5823), C10L 1/02 (515),
1/19 (130), C11C 3/10 (303),
C12P 7/64 (557)
.
Integrated gasification
combined cycle (IGCC)
.
C10L 3/00 (154), F02C 3/28 (100)
.
Fuel cells .
H01M 4/86 (1239) - 4/98 (2), 8/00 (837)
8/24 (1474), 12/00 (24) - 12/08 (107)
.
Pyrolysis or gasification
of biomass
.
C10B 53/00 (237), C10J (1041)
.
Ocean thermal energy
conversion (OTEC)
.
F03G 7/05 (28)
.
Wind energy .
F03D (2939)
.
Solar energy - Photovoltaics (PV)
- for generation of electrical energy
.
H01L 27/142 (136), 31/00 (488),
H01G 9/20 (243), H02N 6/00 (140)
.
Geothermal heat .
F01K (1291), F24F 5/00 (630),
F24J 3/08 (159), H02N 10/00 (28),
F25B 30/06 (65)
.
Waste heat recovery
- in gasification plants
.
C10J 3/86 (29)
.
TRANSPORTATION
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) .
B60K 6/00 (65), 6/20 (53)
.
ENERGY CONSERVATION
Storage of electrical energy .
B60K 6/28 (57), B60W 10/26 (210),
H01M 10/44 (655), - 10/46 (199),
H01G 9/155 (144), H02J 3/28 (36),
7/00 (2273), 15/00 (83)
.
Low energy lighting
- electroluminescent light sources
(e.g. LEDs, OLEDs, PLEDs)
.
F21K 99/00 (155), F21L 4/02 (77),
H01L 33/00 (4239) - 33/64 (28),
51/50 (2511), H05B 33/00 (145)
.
WASTE MANAGEMENT
Consuming waste by combustion .
F23G (1508)
.
Pollution control
- carbon capture and
storage/sequestration
.
B01D 53/14 (807), 53/22 (789),
53/62 (351), B65G 5/00 (50),
C01B 31/20 (168) E21B 41/00 (564),
43/16 (246) E21F 17/16 (16),
F25J 3/02 (297)
.
AGRICULTURE / FORESTRY
Soil improvement .
C09K 17/00 (31), E02D 3/00 (40)
.
ADMIN, REGULATORY OR DESIGN ASPECTS
Carbon/emissions trading,
e.g. pollution credits
.
G06Q (27929)
.
NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION
Gas turbine power
plants using heat
source of nuclear origin
.
F02C 1/05 (51)
.

Using IPC Green Inventory

The system as developed is certainly commendable as it can be easily appreciated that the range of topics in environmentally green technologies is quite wide and the IPC symbols broadly scattered. With the identified IPC symbols, it is at once possible to access a sizable data in a narrowly defined firld. The numbers shown in parentheses need not be taken as absolute number of relevant patents but merely as a pointer to the enormity and manginuted of interest of researchers on various different aspects of the technology. It should also be borne in mind that the list of patents accessed by clicking in here is from within the PCT database of WIPO (PATENTSCOPE). It may be necessary to refine the accessed lists as per the scope and inetrest of the user and discarding irrelevant patents. The list may as well be augmented by adding more patents accessed from other databases, e.g., European – worldwide database using the identified IPC symbols. The European world-wide is known to collect patent data from more than 90 countries.

It may also be realised that despite identification of relevant IPC symbols, the task of collecting relevant patents may still be daunting in some cases. For example, the IPC symbol G06Q as shown here for ‘Carbon/emission trading e.g. pollution credits’ fetches a fairly large number of patents that is likely to be far in excess of the number of relevant patents of interst. This IPC symbol seems to cover a very wide range of subjects such as data processing, office automation, insurance, e-commerce etc.

A most interesting and redeeming feature of this new service from WIPO, however, is that it allows the user to get updated on these searches and any further developments instantly through RSS feeds. On each page of the search on WIPO site, there is a link for RSS feed and the users can subscribe to these in a webpage or e-mail program.

Environmentally Sound Technologies (EST) Concordance

Interestingly, a detailed table on the above subject is also available at the website of USPTO that provides both US Patent Classification (USPC) as well as International Patent Classification (IPC) symbols for the range of topics on environmentally sound technologies (EST) covered by UNFCCC. The EST Concordance was created to serve as a broad guide for the classifications of ESTs, and is neither exhaustive nor exclusive of ESTs as a whole. Unlike, ‘ready-to-click’ links as provided in the IPC Green Inventory of WIPO, USPTO links of USPC and IPC point to the classification schemes of USPTO and WIPO; the user is expected to be familiar with the layout and structure of both databases to extract meaningful inventory of patents.

Link to - WIPO’s IPC Green Inventory

Link to - USPTO’s Environmentally Sound Technologies Concordance

Uganda Chocolates

 

Introduction

Uganda Chocolates Sold in Canada‘ was the head-line of a news report published on 1 August 2010 in African media. Interestingly these chocolates are manufactured in Belgium using cocoa from Uganda that lends it a special taste so that the manufacturer thought it fit to promote it by the name ‘Uganda’ to represent a distinctiveness from other chocolates available in the market. How well and different it tastes can be judged from the following report of a blogger from where the picture of chocolate bar shown below is taken.

Uganda Chocolate

The blogger, a fan of dark chocolates who has not been getting darker than 70% easily describes his experience and joy of its taste as follows: … “The chocolate had a very firm snap, and right away tasted a little bitter (but not unpleasantly so). It had a crumbly melt, and as it warmed, it tasted fruity and a little sour or lemony. The finish was earthy and clean (like a chocolate umami, perhaps), with no oiliness or weird aftertaste. The bar was thoroughly interesting, and actually, very good. I wouldn’t want to eat it all the time, but I really enjoyed it”

The title of the above news-item in African media caught attention of a prominent think-tank of intellectuals wherein one member raised concern with the question – Any issues of intellectual property rights infringement, exploitation and value-addition opportunities here? What should Uganda do next? How can we, as experts on these matters, help her? In other words, the question was how can Ugandan farmers command a premium on their cocoa sold in international markets? This implies that Ugandan cocoa be protected as an intellectual property before such issues can be resolved. In fact, the ‘intellectual property’ on such matters has become quite central to international affairs and trade of commodities such as this in recent years. Products of this kind are now being increasingly protected as ‘geographical indications (GI)’ which is a form of ‘intellectual property’. European producers of high premium products such as wines and spirits have been seen remarkably aggressive and successful in consolidating their position in international trade negotiations and are reaping handsome gains. However, many developing countries representing their ‘traditional products’ worthy of being granted GIs are lagging behind due to poor resource base and lack of appropriate legal framework and management and support structures.

The description by the blogger above suggests that products like Uganda chocolate will remain in demand in international markets due to its characteristic taste of cocoa grown and processed by the Ugandan farmers. In fact, the back cover of the wrapper of the chocolate brags, “Uganda is known for its generally tropical climate and fertile soils blessed by regular rainfall. Ugandan cocoa beans are highly sought after as consumers have discovered the exciting taste of Africa. Forastero beans in Uganda are renowned for their classic cocoa flavour and low acidity. The high cocoa content of this rich dark original chocolate provides a supreme cocoa taste with hints of earthiness, mushrooms and a subtle smoky flavour”. Apparently, therefore, this looks to be a good case for consideration of the grant of GI that would entitle it to command a premium price on its sale in international market. In fact, GI has turned out to be more of a tool for international marketing than the ‘intellectual property’ alone.

What is ‘Geographical Indication (GI)’?

‘Geographical Indications of Goods’ are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country or place of origin of that product. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country.

Although GI has been as part of the national law in different forms of some countries for more than hundred years now, yet its universal acceptance and the way we now know it as a specific form of ‘intellectual property’ is of recent origin when it was introduced in the TRIPS agreement of WTO which came into force since 1995. Many countries have since embraced the concept through passage of their own law on the subject. For example, the Indian Parliament passed ‘The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999′ in December, 1999.

India’s Journey on GI Route

The first application received by the Indian GI Registry that was set up soon after the Act and the bill being passed was for Darjeeling tea in October 2003. It was filed by the Tea Board of India, an authority established by the government. Due to the special weather and soil conditions in the region, Darjeeling tea has a unique taste and is traded internationally. This was the first GI case in India granted on 29 October 2004. It is worth recalling that the quality, reputation and characteristics of the Darjeeling tea is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and cannot be replicated elsewhere resulting in Darjeeling tea being considered a GI. There are two main factors that contribute to its exceptional taste – the geographical location and the method of processing which is quite different from that adopted elsewhere.

This was followed by a spate of products from different regional stakeholders for registration of GI for their products e.g., Pochampalli ikat, a fabric (2004) and Chanderi sari, a wearable textile (2005). More than 100 GIs have since been granted in India and as many are still under consideration. It is reported that most of the products aspiring for GI status are in the category of ‘handicrafts’ followed by ‘agriculture’.

Getting products on GI list is no mean task. One of the papers suggested for further reading at the end of this article outlines the treacherous journey of seeking GI status for such products which invariably involves a battle through the maze of opposition, vested interests of middle men, legal complexities etc. and the key to success being creating awareness among the stakeholders and provision of appropriate institutional framework. Getting products on the GI registry is only the first step towards realizing their economic potential. Even this has been a major problem. Most of the people engaged in the production of such products are small households or small units, although in the same area. Convincing them to organize into associations to move the application for registration was a Herculean task in many instances. This Indian experience of getting GI status for a large number of goods that come from small stakeholders from artisanal or farmer classes but having unique qualities to merit such protection should be a valuable lesson for many African countries.

Cocoa Cultivation in Uganda

Cocoa was introduced in Uganda by British in 1903, but has become important for domestic or export markets in only last few decades. The government wants to see a rapid rise in the quality and quantity of production due to a huge market demand – it has plans to plant 35 million improved cocoa seedlings over the next seven years. It is estimated that currently some 15,000 metric tonnes of cocoa valued at US$30m is exported. In fact, Uganda is not the only country producing cocoa in Africa; Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa are other countries very much into it and almost half the national economy of some of these is based on cocoa production alone. Much of the cocoa production in Africa is in the hands of small farmers having plots of less than 3 acres and is characterized by employment of children which is a point of controversy in the western world. There also is considerable smuggling of cocoa in many parts though Cocoa Marketing Boards are also in operation and sell the product on fixed prices. Ugandan President was reported to comment once that he would like Chocolates to be produced within the country instead of exporting cocoa out of the country.

Bundibugyo, a district in Uganda that produces much of the country’s cocoa has got a bumper crop this year while there was little last year due to drought like situation. People are raking in money this time around and getting busy with constructing new houses and buying cloths for the family as well as putting children in school. This sudden prosperity is stated to be a cause for worry also since people are planting more cocoa trees instead of food crops with the result that there is considerable shortage of food and malnutrition among children is increasing. More money in hand is also turning men into polygamy with a tendency to have more number of wives. The government is addressing these problems by creating awareness for maintaining balance at home and at the farm. What we are concerned here, however, is a sustainable development of the region based on a quality production of a product for which there is a perenial global demand and ensured income.
Cocoa processing

Cocoa is a major earner of foreign exchange in Uganda. To get the best price, quality is essential and for this the cocoa must be dried until its water content is about seven per cent of its weight. Too much moisture affects the cocoa’s scent and flavour and can encourage the growth of mould. Cocoa beans with fungi cannot be used to produce chocolate. For this, new drying technology transferred from Italy is being tried harnessing the solar power that uses 200 mm thick polyethylene sheets that retains the heat underneath. This technology helps the growers comply with regulations of the EU good agricultural practices.
Cocoa being separated from pods

In international market, cocoa is graded in two categories; conventional (where chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used) and organic (where farm yard manure is used to improve the fertility of the soil and also boost yields). Organic cocoa fetches a one and half times more price than the wet conventional one.

GI Laws in Sub-Saharan Africa

Justin Hughes’ report (Please see reference below) produced for the International Intellectual Property Institute, Washington, though still at the draft stage reviews the current status of GIs and concurrent laws on coffee and chocolate products with a view to examine how developing country farmers can be helped through GI regime. It states that just as GI laws and broad GI-based marketing are relatively new in most developed countries, such laws and explicit marketing are rare in the developing countries that produce coffee and cocoa. The report provides interesting insight into Jamaica’s struggle for the GI of its ‘Blue Mountain Coffee’.

Examining through the impact of GI-based marketing and the need for public enforcement of GIs both in the producing developing countries and elsewhere in developed world, it has been suggested that cocoa-producing states can market both GI-based cocoa and GI-based chocolate. For example, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela each have at least one premium quality chocolate producer with meaningful exports to developed countries; in 2007-2008, 20% of Côte d’Ivoire cocoa production was processed locally into cocoa butter, cocoa powder, and chocolate.

Millions of people in the developing world have stake in GI-based production and marketing. There are approximately 6.5 million cocoa growers – mainly farmers and their families working small plots, about 70% of these people are in sub-Saharan Africa. It has been concluded by the author that while domestic laws complying with TRIPS Article 22′s standard for the protection of geographical indications unquestionably provide the needed environment for successful GI-based marketing, but very few developing countries have such laws.

The first real challenge is building up the reputation of possible coffee or cocoa GI candidates. This is stated to be achievable though as Colombian coffee demonstrates. It was observed that most investment in coffee and cocoa GI reputations is now being made by coffee roasters and chocolate makers from rich economies – and developing countries should welcome this instead of trying to stop them. The stark reality, however, is that many coffee and cocoa producing countries do not have the government resources, public institutions, and transparency to make any meaningful progress on this front.

Catherine Grant (Please see reference) while discussing GI implications for Africa argues that that the greater protection of GIs would benefit farmers and craftsmen in Africa by assisting to market their products. To achieve this, however, African countries need to stand together in international discussions instead of dividing themselves into groups. They also need to identify key GIs that are worth protecting.

Status of IP / GI Laws in Uganda

Having begun our story with Uganda, it is prudent to conclude with a quick review of the status of IP and GI laws in that country. The country has several IP laws presently existing but they are yet to be TRIPS complaint which it is under obligation to do by 2013. The country’s IP administration and enforcement is extremely poor at present despite the fact that it received cooperation and funding to upgrade the system from various quarters. The bill for the GI law is stated to have been passed very recently but lot more needs to be done.

Let us hope there would be positive developments in future that would ensure supply of quality chocolates from Uganda and bring the desired prosperity for Ugandan peasants. We may ask – when ‘Swiss Chocolate‘ is already a GI, why can not ‘Uganda Chocolate‘ be so? But the answer to this question has to come from within Uganda.

Note – The pictures in this article have been taken from the references given below for further reading!

Further Reading

The Nectar of Holy Cow

Introduction

The cow has been a divine symbol of Hinduism since eternity and revered like a mother which is not only a potent source of nourishing milk but regarded essential as a source of health, wealth and happiness. Cow urine is stated to be even more beneficial for society as a medicine for scores of ailments and for general cleanliness and purification purposes. Many references to cow urine therapy are available in ancient Hindu Holy Scriptures and Ayurved as well as other traditional system of Indian Medicine, viz., Sushruta Samhita (by Sushruta) and Ashtanga Sangraha (by Vagbhata). Many toxic substances are known to loose their toxicity after a while, if immersed in cow urine as per standard procedures.

The Virtuous Panchgavya

There seems to be an unprecedented interest in cow and cow urine in India and elsewhere recently not only by members of Indian Hindu religious groups but by scientists working across the globe in advanced areas of medical research. It is interesting to review the findings of various interest groups many of which have also been patented. While information on the type or breed of cows used for experiments on their urine is not always known, it has been claimed that for best results, urine should be sourced from native Indian cow only, which is recognisable through a hump on her back, and long fan shaped skin flap below the neck. It is also believed that the pyramid like hump serves to absorb cosmic rays from the universe. Go-vigyan Anusandhan Kendra (GVAK) (which literally translates to Cow Science Research Centre) (http://www.govigyan.com) located in Nagpur, India is known to be carrying out research programmes aimed at investigating efficacy of different medicinal products formulated through a combination of five principal products (Panchgavya) obtainable from cow from variety of breeds. Panchgavya {literally meaning five (panch) + substances (gavya)} stand for milk, curd (yoghurt), ghee (butter fat), dung and urine obtainable from cow.

Besides, GVAK, there are quite a few cow urine therapy centres now thriving in India and sustaining their business through their exclusive websites reaching a wide cross-section of population and by web-casting the experiences of erstwhile patients claiming to have been cured by this wonder therapy for a range of diseases and disorders. One such center based in Indore, India is that of Dr Jain (http://www.cowurine.com).

It is interesting to see that nation-wide movements on cow protection and abandonment of ever increasing slaughter houses, emanating from deep religious quarters are pushing their demands behind the scientific investigations. The growing number of patents on cow urine or other related products are being seen as legitimate ground for such demands. The activities related to such a movement along with its social and religious overtones can be seen at the website of recent ‘Vishwa Mangla Gou Grama Yathra (Universal Welfare – Cow Village Procession)’ that toured throughout the country for more than 108 days and submitted more than 80 million signatures to the President of India demanding to bring back the glory of cow-based village institutions (http://eng.gougram.org). All such movements and institutions have raised their voices to bring back the glory of panchgavya and try to promote various therapeutic products based on it. This website also gives some interesting facts on therapeutic importance of various constituents known to be present in cow urine, which is reproduced below.

Medicinal values of Cow urine

    • Urea : Product of protein metabolism. Strong antimicrobial agent.
    • Uric Acid : Anti microbail activity helps to control cancer.
    • Nitrogen : Diuretic, stimulates kidney
    • Sulphur : Purifies blood, increases intestinal peristalsis
    • Copper : Controls fat deposition
    • Iron : Production of RBC in blood
    • Sodium : Purifies blood, checks hyperacidity
    • Potassium : Appetizer, eliminates muscles fatigue
    • Other salts : Antibacterial, prevents comma and ketoacids
    • Carbolic Acid : Antibacterial, prevents gas gangrenes
    • Ammonia : Integrity of body tissue and blood
    • Sugar-Lactose : Heart, thirst, giddiness
    • Vitamin A,B.C,D, E : Prevent excessive thirst, infuse vigour, increase potency
    • Creatinine : Antibacterial
    • Swarna Kshar : Antibacterial, improves immunity (aurum hydroxide) acts as antidote
    • Enzyme-urokinase : Dissolve blood clot, improves heart disease, blood circulation
    • Colony stimulating factor : Effective for cell division and multiplication
    • Erythropoietin stimulating factor : Production of RBCs
    • Gonadotropin : Promotes menstrual cycle, sperm production
    • Kallikrein : Releases Kallidin which expands peripheral veins and reduces blood pressure.
    • Allantoin : Heals wounds and tumors
    • Anticancer substances : Prevents multiplication of carcinogenic cells
    • Phenols : Bactericidal, antifungal

Source: http://eng.gougram.org

A Delhi based outlet (http://www.godandguru.com) catering to all religious resources on global basis also sells a number of cow urine (goumutra) products through web-based marketing, viz., Goumutra Ark, Goumutra Tablets (Ghanavati), Goumutra Home Phenyl and Goumutra Mosquito coil. A Haridwar based herbal research laboratory is stated to have developed ‘Gou Jal’ (or Cow Water), which it hopes can be marketed as a ‘healthy’ alternative to Coke and Pepsi.

Patents on Cow Urine Products

Anti Cancer

One of the recent reports published in ‘Pioneer’ on 17 June 2010 (http://www.dailypioneer.com/263248/RSS-cow-urine-drug-gets-US-patent.html) describes of the award of a US patent for an anti-cancer drug extracted from cow urine and developed by GVAK jointly with prestigious National Environmental Engineer Research Institute (NEERI), also based in Nagpur. This patent was granted on 18 May 2010 by USPTO in favour of the applicants with no. US7718360 B2. The said patent claims that re-distilled cow urine distillate (RCUD) dubbed as ‘kamdhenu ark’ as a marketable product is useful for protecting and repairing DNA from oxidative damage, which is known to be a leading cause of ageing, cancer and other diseases. RCUD works against genotoxicity, a harmful action on a cell’s genetic material. As per this invention, the efficacy of kamdhenu ark as anti-cancer drug has been proved beyond doubt.

Notably, this is the third US patent granted to GVAK. Way back at the turn of the millennium, GVAK teemed up with a number of other scientists to investigate the role of cow urine distillate as bioenhancer. The PCT patent (WO0232436A1) was also filed for protection in a number of other countries., viz., Mexico, France, Europe, Germany, China, Brazil, Australia and Austria besides US. While, this was hailed as a major achievement on the part of scientists who undertook the research work, it also attracted attention and appreciation of political class of Hindu interest groups that happened to be in power at that time in India. There were many, however, who did not quite agree with the scientific methodology employed and the conclusions drawn and stressed the point that mere grant of a patent does not validate the scientific facts behind such investigations. A critique on this by Dr MD Nair, a well known Indian scientist and holder of several patents himself is available online that was published in ‘The Hindu’ (http://www.mothercow.org/oxen/cow-urine-therapy.html). Nonetheless, such criticism has neither helped diminish medicinal properties of cow urine nor the abundant research interest surrounding it.

Anti Diabetics

As per another report published in ‘Pioneer’ in February, 2010 (http://www.dailypioneer.com/237106/Cow-urine-can-cure-diabetes-claim-researchers.html), a three-member team of researchers led by Dr K Jayakumar, Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the Veterinary College under Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University, Bangalore found that cow urine contains certain molecules that can fight diabetes. The team is in the final stages of identifying the molecule that secretes insulin. While this invention is still somewhat away from seeking patent, yet the research design seems to be based on scientific methodologies as applied to drug development programmes. The anti-diabetic activity of cow urine was tested on rats with experimentally induced diabetes who showed marked difference in blood sugar levels. But in the case of diabetic rats which were not administered cow urine, sugar levels remained the same. It is not clear at this stage if the increased insulin levels in rats with administering cow urine is due to stimulation of beta cells of pancreas as is the case with currently available oral anti-diabetic agents or cow urine is stimulating the regeneration of pancreatic beta cells.

In this five-year research, the scientists have convincingly found that the cow urine has anti-diabetic properties. But the task is still unfinished; of the 360 different molecules found by the research team, it is remains to be identified the particular molecule that is most potent as anti-diabetic. Once that is identified, that should change the dynamics of diabetic treatment in future.

Other Inventions

Inspired by the above reports, we undertook to cull out and compile seemingly useful patents related to the cow urine from different sources. These have been summed up below in the Table. The readers may like to pay attention to the Chinese and Korean patents that deal with cow urine collection device and identification of protein in cow urine aimed at helping with cow pregnancy diagnosis.

Cow Urine Patents

Patent Abstract
…………………………………… ……………………………………………..
US7718360 B2 – 18/05/2010 Composition (RCUD)for protecting and / or repairing DNA from oxidative damages and a method thereof; Chakrabarti et al, CSIR, India Redistilled cow’s urine distillate (RCUD) having benzoic acid and hexanoic acid components, with ammonia content ranging between 5-15 mg/L, and optionally along with anti-oxidants was found useful for protecting and/or repairing DNA.
…………………………………… ……………………………………………..
WO0232436A1 – 4/25/2002 with equivalent patents in Mexico, France, Europe, Germany, China, Brazil, Australia and Austria; Use of bioactive fraction from cow urine distillate (GO MUTRA) as a bioenhancer of of anti-infective, anti-cancer agents and nutrients – Khanuja et al, CSIR, India The invention relates to a novel pharmaceutical composition comprising an effective amount of bio-active fraction form cow urine distillate as a bioavailability facilitor and pharmaceutically acceptable additives selected from anticancer compounds, antibiotics, drugs, therapeutic and nutraceutic agents, ions and similar molecules which are targeted to the living systems.
…………………………………… ……………………………………………..
ZA200302276A – 4/28/2004 South Africa - do -
…………………………………… ……………………………………………..
US2002164378A1 – 11/7/2002 USA - do -
…………………………………… ……………………………………………..
US6410059B1 – 6/25/2002 Pharmaceutical Composition containing cow urine distillate and an antibiotic A pharmaceutical composition comprising an antibiotic and cow urine distillate in an amount effective to enhance antimicrobial effect of the antibiotic is disclosed. The antibiotic can be an antifungal agent. The antibiotic can be a quinolone or a fluoroquinolone. The antifungal agent can be azoles, clotrimazole, mystatin or amphotericin.
…………………………………… ……………………………………………..
CN201237565Y – 5/13/2009 Apparatus for full collection of cow urine; Zhijun et al, Univ China Agricultural The invention discloses a device for fully collecting cow urine, which provides a urine collection bag, and an in vitro urethra and a hopper that allows a totally closed ”pipeline” system to be installed without any inconvenience, damage or injury to the cow.
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IN189078A1 – 12/14/2002; Equiv. WO02096440A1 A process of manufactiring a therapeutic ayurvedic composition; Jain Virendra Kumar, India Process of manufacturing herbal medicinal composition with cow urine in tablet form is described that comprises of various steps of mixing active ingredients in right proportion, pulverising and adding excipients, adjuvants, filler etc. and finally granulating and tableting.
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KR20000065910A – 11/15/2000 Pregnancy-assocaited protein isolated from cow urine; Lim Jin Kyu et al, Cell Bio Gen Inc, Korea A pregnancy-associated protein isolated from cow urine is provided which is identified by 2-D gel electrophoresis of saturated protein fractions with ammonium sulfate and of which amino acid sequence is also provided. Thereby, the efficiency of bovine pregnancy diagnosis is improved.

Intellectual Property in Africa

Intellectual Property was a major theme in the just concluded UN Conference ‘Science with Africa’ held during 23-25 June 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. IP is assuming an important position in today’s discussion on social economic development even in Africa where ‘science, technology and innovation’ is just beginning to be embraced. The highest number of submission of patent applications by South Africa as 390 and by Egypt as 41 in the year 2007 as against the same in Republic of Korea and China as 7061 and 5456 respectively were the highlights of IP theme bringing forth the following questions to be probed in:

  • What is the status of the Africa continent in embracing IP?
  • Is there any recognition of the importance of IP in Africa’s social economic development?
  • What is the perception of African’s on IP?
  • How is awareness creation of IP and particularly patent regime in the continent’s academic and research institutions?

Clearly some of the major problems in acquiring patents within the continent of Africa have been lack of awareness of the operations of the patent regime coupled with difficulties related to financial provision for patent acquisition and maintenance.

Several initiatives have been taken during the last decade in Africa to promote creation, protection and exploitation of IP in the developmental process of a number of countries; an IDRC supported programme mapped the utilization of IP in research and development in 3 African countries, viz., Botswana, Cameroon and Tanzania. This study reveals that there is a significantly low level of awareness of IP among researchers, technology developers, industry and the public at large, as a result of which there is:

  • Low level of protection of IP of whatever little technology development and innovation work gets carried out in this region
  • Low level of IP exploitation in terms of using Patent Information leading to duplication of research efforts and improper utilization of available research resources in African countries.

The Panel on ‘Innovation and IPRs’ in this conference included eminent personalities from Uganda, Nigeria, and Madagascar connected with ‘intellectual property’ and ‘technology transfer’ along with founder of TECHNOLOGY-PATENT.COM from India. The panel was chaired by the Director General of ARIPO. The main objectives of the panel were:

  • Examine the extent to which the patent systems promote innovation and technology transfer in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Identify reasons for the relative failure of the system in playing the alleged positive role in a number of African countries
  • Recommend ways in which the Africa patent systems could be enhanced to facilitate innovation, technology transfer and industrial development

Speaking on ‘Protecting Bio Assets and Strengthening Framework for Agri-biotech Patents’, the founder of TECHNOLOGY-PATENT.COM, emphasized that African countries need to focus on initiating research programmes aimed at:

  • Transgenic crops that are of specific value to the region, e.g., cassava
  • Developing commercial crops of essential oils and their processing technologies
  • Search for bio-active molecules from indigenous plant sources based on traditional and folklore medicine
  • Food processing technologies with due emphasis on entrepreneurship and patent registration of unique and distinctive products and processes

The power point presentation on the subject made by the founder of TECHNOLOGY-PATENT.COM can be seen here.

The conference noted that the bio-resource potential of Africa indicate approximately 40,000 to 60,000 plant species. Of the currently commonly used 6,400 plant species, about 4,000 species are medicinal plant species. It was observed that proper bio-safety norms as well as legal frameworks for regulating biological and genetic resources as well as indigenous knowledge are yet to be established in many countries in Africa. As a result available bio-assets are not being developed indigenously for commercial use and are subject of rampant bio-piracy.

The conference also noted the fragmented nature and low level of support as well as the inadequate investment in R&D as well as inadequate national IP policies in many African countries.

In view of the above observations, the conference came out, among other things, with the following recommendations:

  • Setting up of Biosafety Authorities
  • Establish national records of innovations and inventions (database)
  • Establish National Intellectual Property (IP) policy in each of the African county by 2015
  • Create enabling environment to raise awareness about “intellectual property” and strengthen national capability for handling intellectual property applications through search and examination