Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Workshops in Vietnam

Well, we just finished two workshops in Vietnam, both in collaboration with the National Office of Intellectual Property. The workshops were entitled (this is quite a mouthful) "workshop on intellectual property rights and commercialization of research results in the field of agriculture and bio-agriculture." I'm told it sounds better in Vietnamese.

We did one workshop in Hanoi in one workshop in Cantho. (The pictures are from both workshops.) In general, it was a great time. We had about 60 researchers at each location, all from public research institutions. The agenda at each workshop was more or less the same: talks by experts, case studies, and time for discussion.

One topic that we discussed at length this year, that we did not cover last year, was institutional IP policies. As it turns out, this is hugely important in Vietnam now --- many universities are struggling to write a IP policy. The motivating factor seems to be that faculty are increasingly commercializing their research, which leads to tensions between faculty, collaborators, their universities, and even government. As you might expect, these tensions are over who owns research results and is entitled to, for example, a portion of revenue from royalties if a piece of IP is licensed. For example, we were privileged to have at our workshop in Hanoi a researcher from Hanoi University of Agriculture who recently came into fame after she successfully sold her hybrid rice variety to a company for roughly half a million US dollars. Of course, her research program at HUA was funded by numerous agencies, including the government. Furthermore, she did not have any IP agreement with the University. So, her good fortune has been somewhat muddled by a debate over how the proceeds from her sale will be divided between the researchers, the university, and the government. Obviously, many institutions would like to have a clear IP policy beforehand to avoid such confusion!

In addition to the many interesting talks by experts, PIPRA presented some of the new tools we have developed for researchers in Vietnam. These include our patent search site, through which you can search the USPTO using Vietnamese instead of English; and our IP Policy Writer, which helps institutions draft an IP policy by leading them through a series of simple questions.

And now the most important part of this blog post. As many of you know, our program in Southeast Asia is funded exclusively by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. We are grateful for their funding and their commitment to improving IP management as a means to enhance technology commercialization and national development.

Monday, September 8, 2008

New York Times writes about the impact of Bayh-Dole

There's an interesting article at the New York Times on Bayh-Dole entitled: "When Academia Puts Profit Ahead of Wonder." (The article is the most e-mailed article on the nytimes.com website right now.) In general, the article is critical of Bayh-Dole. For example, the author says:

Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of campus commercialization is that research decisions are now being based on possible profits, not on the inherent value of knowledge. “Blue sky” research — the kind of basic experimentation that leads to a greater understanding of how the world works — has largely been set aside in favor of projects considered to have more immediate market potential.

The article fails to mention some important, positive aspects of the legislation. For example, for many university innovations, fungible IP rights promote the dissemination and commercialization of those innovations. For an opposing view, see Donald Zhun's blog.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Analyst position at PIPRA

PIPRA is searching for an IP Analyst to work on biofuels and crop regulation at our offices in Davis, CA. The position is described below.

The Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA) is a grant-supported program that coordinates agricultural intellectual property (IP) management across 50 member institutions to enable research projects that address specialty crops and/or humanitarian projects in developing countries. PIPRA manages a comprehensive patent database comprising intellectual property from all member institutions, creates and delivers educational programs to support intellectual property management capacity building in developing countries, conducts legal research to assess the freedom to operate around specific patented agricultural technologies and implements collaborative strategies to manage pools of intellectual property belonging to multiple institutional owners.

There are four functional units within PIPRA: IP Information Services and Analysis, Education and Outreach, Biotechnology Resources, and Intellectual Property management. This position (IP Analyst) falls within the IP Information Services and Analysis unit, and was created to provide analytical services in support of legal research on various projects undertaken by this unit. Under the direction of the unit director, this position independently works with internal staff and external organizations to ensure that PIPRA fulfills all requested contractual services in a timely manner and provides quality analytical data.
The analyst will participate in the following projects:

  • assess the biofuel IP landscape associated with the use of lignocellulosic biomass.
  • provide analytical support for legal IP freedom-to-operate opinions of specific technologies.
  • review the US and international biosafety regulatory process as it relates to specialty crops.

Analyses to be conducted will typically require cross-disciplinary awareness of law, science, public policy, and information technology. The analyst will independently set priorities, milestones, and presents deliverables in written and/or oral format .

Time: 40 hours per week
Ideal candidates will meet the following criteria:

Education: University degree is required- a degree in biological sciences, plant biotechnology, biochemistry, or related field is strongly preferred. Patent agent certification or understanding of legal IP issues is highly desired but NOT required. Understanding or interest in learning about legal IP and regulatory issues is required.


  • Demonstrated experience in project management and research, especially as it relates to IP law, science, or policy.
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently.
  • Ability to professionally interact with representatives of external organizations to fulfill requests and provide support.
  • Ability to design and supervise implementation of a variety of projects related to IP management.
  • Demonstrated experience in oral and written communications with a broad section of professionals in the legal, academic, and business communities.
  • Ability to support development of institutional strategies addressing complex issues involving IP law or policy.
  • Demonstrated skills in assessing priorities and strong organizational skills to effectively work on multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Demonstrated skill in data management and analysis.
  • Familiarity or ability to learn about, IP, scientific literature, and other pertinent databases.
  • Excellent writing and speaking skills.
  • Ability to work effectively individually and as part of a team.
  • Professional skills, judgment and diplomacy to achieve successful outcomes in sensitive or difficult interactions.
  • Computer skills in spreadsheets

This position offers a competitive salary determined by the successful candidate's experience and full health benefits. Please send a statement describing your interests, detailed curriculum vitae, and 2-3 letters of references via email to Kathleen Bess, klbess@ucdavis.edu. Review of applications will start August 15th, 2008 and continue until the position is filled.

The University of California, Davis is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Michael Heller's Gridlock Economy

PIPRA is prominently featured in Michael Heller's new book Gridlock Economy. It is a very interesting and readable explanation of the anticommons. Highly recommended.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Syngenta and Monsanto settle IP disputes

Monsanto and Syngenta reached an agreement yesterday under which they settled apparently all of their IP disputes. Under the terms of the agreement

  • Monsanto receives a royalty-bearing license to Syngenta’s enabling technology for dicamba herbicide tolerance.

  • Syngenta receives more favorable marketing conditions relating to its Bt11 trait for European corn borer control.

  • Monsanto and Syngenta agree to settle all patent, antitrust and commercial litigation between the companies and their subsidiaries. These disputes include: Syngenta’s antitrust action against Monsanto, all infringement cases on herbicide-tolerant and insect-protected corn technologies, and a dispute between the parties on herbicide-tolerant soybean technology.

  • Syngenta receives a royalty-bearing license to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Yield™ soybean technology.

  • Monsanto and Syngenta agree to cross-enable each other to develop and deliver innovative new herbicide-tolerant and Bt insect-protection products in corn, cotton and soybeans to compete for the business of farmers around the world.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Water-Efficient Maize for Africa: PIPRA Supports CIMMYT in Negotiations

PIPRA and Morrison & Foerster, LLP played a key role supporting public sector interests on behalf of CIMMYT in recent negotiations surrounding CIMMYT’s role in a $47 million dollar project to deliver drought-tolerant maize to sub-Saharan Africa.

The Bill & Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations announced their support this week for a project, led by Nairobi-based AATF (The African Agricultural Technology Foundation), in collaboration with Monsanto Company and CIMMYT (The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) that will work to provide new varieties of water-efficient, locally-adapted maize for small-scale African farmers.

Maize is the staple food for more than a quarter of a billion Africans and, according to 2008 estimates produced by the USAID Famine Early Warning System Network, climate change could decrease rainfall in eastern and southern Africa by up to 25% over the coming decades. “By 2020 all of Africa will have an expected crop reduction ranging from 10-20 percent,” according to John Shroder, Professor of Geography and Geology at University of Nebraska Omaha.

Drought-tolerance in maize to increase food security in Africa is the subject of much ongoing global research. The Water-Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project represents a key public-private partnership in this area, combining Monsanto's expertise in molecular marker assisted breeding and transgenics with CIMMYT's advanced breeding programs for tropical maize, and AATF’s experience in the stewardship of genetically modified (GM) projects.

CIMMYT chose PIPRA and technology transactions attorney Jonathan Dickstein from the San Francisco offices of law firm Morrison & Foerster to integrate public sector issues and interests on behalf of CIMMYT into the WEMA public-private partnership (PPP) research agreement. PPPs can be difficult to negotiate, given the deep cultural differences between the public and private sectors related to confidentiality, publication rights, public goods, and intellectual property rights. PIPRA offers a unique resource with its experience in articulating public sector goals and its mission to provide services to support the strategic management of intellectual property rights among public agricultural research organizations worldwide.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

USPTO Rejects HIV/AIDS Drug Patents after considering prior art

On 23 January, 2008 the Public Patent Foundation announced that the USPTO rejected four patents assigned to Gilead Sciences that related to the HIV/AIDS drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF). The Public Patent Foundation filed a third party request for re-examination, submitting prior art that had not been disclosed in the patent prosecution process. For more information on the patents, the reexaminations, and the Public Patent Foundation, see: http://www.pubpat.org/gileadhivaidsdrug.htm.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Wrap-up of Pipra's workshop in Vietnam

We've been meaning to write for some time about our recent workshop in Vietnam. As many "Pipra friends" know, we have a grant from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) to teach about IP management in Vietnam. We're helping public research institutions there learn about patenting, in-licensing, out-licensing, commercialization, and, in general, how to maximize the return on their public research dollars.

On November 27th and 28th, PIPRA hosted the first of three annual workshops in Hanoi, Vietnam entitled “Intellectual Property Rights and Commercialization of Research Results of Institutions in the Field of Agriculture and Biotechnology” (a long title, which, we are told sounds better in Vietnamese!). The workshop was co-organized with the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

We happy to say that the workshop was an unqualified success. We had over 80 attendees from more than 21 different institutions and some excellent speakers including Ramon Oliveros, from IRRI; Atty. Antonio Beronio, from PhilRice; Dr. Shashank Mauria, from ICAR; and Dr. Saowaluck Pornkulwat from Monsanto Thailand.