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.