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Monday, 29 November 2010

Management of IP in sustainable agri-development: essential or irrelevant?

Digging for sustainable development ...
IPKat team member Jeremy had a fascinating discussion with Kay Chapman a couple of months ago.  Kay is  Communications and Information Specialist, CAS-IP (that's the Central Advisory Service on Intellectual Property of CGIAR -- the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. In case you've not come across CGIAR before [and you jolly well ought to have, since it has been mentioned at least twice on this blog before], it's
"a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development with the funders of this work. ... The work they support is carried out by 15 members of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector".
The Fund Council includes the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and national governments as diverse as the United States, Brazil and Iran.  Anyway, CGIAR has been doing some thinking about its attitude to, and relationship with, intellectual property rights.  Let Kay explain:
"Intellectual Property (IP) and Intellectual Asset (IA) management in the CGIAR

In a public research environment, IP and IA management can be a tricky subject, sometimes even met with suspicion. There can be little doubt that managing IA effectively is required to fulfil the goals of the institutes within which we work.
In the context of agricultural research what do we mean when we talk about IA management? The term IA covers all intellectual assets (results, information, articles, publications, know-how, new plant varieties, etc.) whether or not they are protected by intellectual property rights (by which we mean copyrights, patents, trademarks, plant variety protection, etc.).
Effective IA management is crucial to facilitate the exchange of research outputs as well as to support trust in collaborations. It is also required to deal with issues such as access, ownership and exploitation of the outputs produced.
The message from a recent and comprehensive Review of the CGIAR’s own Intellectual Property unit (CAS-IP) was clear and direct:
“We firmly believe that the management (or mismanagement) of intellectual property will be a primary factor in determining the future of the CGIAR's contributions to agricultural innovation systems that will help ensure global food security, poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability”.
Do you have any thoughts about IA management in the agricultural research for development purposes? What should IA management focus on if you need to ensure benefits are available for the public good? What should or shouldn’t we do with the results of publicly funded research?

The Review mentioned above was commissioned by CAS-IP's main donor, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS), first to evaluate CAS-IP's activities. In light of the CGIAR reform process, DGIS also requested that the Review Team extend the scope to include the broader context of intellectual asset management in the CGIAR. Given the fundamental importance of IP/IA management, it will not be ignored as the new structure of the CGIAR emerges. Details of exactly what form IA management will take have not yet emerged.

Further to the publication of the Review of CAS-IP, a public consultation process has been set up online. Any comments will be compiled and officially added to the report, we hope for use by the agricultural development community at-large, as well as to inform the new Consortium Office".
The IPKat is fascinated by all of this.  What should organisations like CGIAR be doing with the results of agricultural research, apart from making sure that everyone who needs to use them can get access to them? Should the organisation's role be confined to describing and databasing research results, or is its money better spent on building up and policing agricultural IP portfolios for the beneficial exploitation and management of those rights for the greater good? Or is the notion of a greater good illusory?  Do tell Kay what you think!

You can see a one-page discussion document of the Review here or browse the results of the Review here
To contact Kay Chapman, just email her here.

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