Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Patents for Humanity: improving lives across the globe

By Edward Elliott*, Attorney Advisor, Patents for Humanity Program Manager, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), USA

*Authored by an employee of the United States Patent and Trademark Office; no copyright is claimed by the United States in this article or associated materials.

Patents for Humanity is a United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awards program that recognizes innovators who overcome these challenges to bring life-changing technologies to those in need. Its purpose is twofold. First, it highlights success stories so that others can learn how to reach underserved communities. Second, by providing value to award winners, the program seeks to offset some of the diminished commercial incentives in these regions, thereby encouraging more innovation projects aimed at helping impoverished communities. This value includes public recognition of winners’ work and a voucher for accelerating certain matters before the USPTO.

Participants submit applications describing how they are using patented technology to benefit the less fortunate in five broad categories of humanitarian need: medicine, nutrition, sanitation, energy and living standards. Once the application period closes, we run a two-phase selection process with volunteer experts from outside the USPTO, including university faculty and technology transfer professionals, to review the entries according to program criteria. The review committee then sends a list of recommended award winners to the USPTO.

The first Patents for Humanity competition launched in early 2012 as a pilot program. Since then, it has attracted support from the White House and members of the U.S. Congress as well as many companies, trade associations, public interest groups and universities. In 2014, the USPTO announced that Patents for Humanity would be an ongoing program. Subsequent rounds of Patents for Humanity awards were made in April 2015 and most recently November 2016.

To date, Patents for Humanity has given 21 awards to all types of entities, from large multinational corporations to small companies and startups as well as universities and non-profit organizations. These recipients show how even a small group of people with focus and commitment can impact lives around the globe. The program is open to all U.S. patent owners and licensees. Three awards have gone to organizations based in Europe.

Past award winners include patent owners using their portfolios to decrease the cost of HIV and malaria drugs, develop more nutritious food sources, bring solar energy to off-grid villages, combat unsafe counterfeit medicines and purify billions of liters of water using inexpensive packets. Award winners from the past two cycles include:

* Sanofi, for supplying large quantities of anti-malarial compounds on an at-cost basis for use in developing countries.
* Novartis, for identifying new drug compounds for potentially treating drug-resistant tuberculosis and donating them to the non-profit TB Alliance for further development.
* SunPower Corp, for delivering clean solar-powered lighting to replace kerosene in villages in the Philippines through converted shipping containers.
* American Standard Brands, for distributing 1.2 million “SaTo” safe toilet latrine pans to communities in Africa and Southeast Asia.
* GRIT (Global Research Innovation & Technology), for developing an all-terrain wheelchair using readily available bicycle parts for use in India, Guatemala, Haiti and other locations.
Golden Rice, for creating vitamin A-enriched strains of rice to prevent thousands of cases of blindness and death each day among people who subsist primarily on rice.
* Nutriset, for fighting childhood malnutrition by creating a worldwide network of partners to supply their PlumpyNut formula using local producers.
* GestVision, for developing a quick, simple diagnostic test for preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication, for use in developing regions.
* Case Western Reserve University, for creating a low-cost, accurate malaria detection device using magnets and lasers for quicker diagnosis and treatment.
* Global Good Fund, for creating a passive cooler that can keep vaccines cold for 30 days, and for donating dozens of units to the fight against Ebola and other relief efforts.
* U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for developing an improved meningitis vaccine production process that has been used to immunize 235 million people in high-risk African countries.

An estimated 65 million people in the developing world require wheelchairs. Conventional wheelchairs do not function well on the rough and uneven terrain commonly found in developing regions. GRIT was created by engineering graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to increase mobility for people with disabilities around the world. Their three-wheel Leveraged Freedom Chair uses a push-lever drivetrain to help people move over uneven terrain such as broken pavements, dirt roads, fields, hills, rocky terrain and more. It is built from standard bicycle parts to enable local repairs with available materials. After graduating, the MIT students founded GRIT to bring the product to market, and MIT assisted by transferring the patent rights to GRIT for further development.

The chair has been distributed in partnership with the World Bank, the Red Cross and others in Brazil, Easter Island (Chile), Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, India, Kenya, Nepal and the United Republic of Tanzania. A new version of the chair, known as the Freedom Chair, is now available in the United States for recreational use, helping Americans move beyond the pavement.

For more information on Patents for Humanity, including the latest announcements, visit

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trademark amendments: Protecting ‘sound, smell and colours'

The “sound, smell and colours” produced by Malaysian companies will be protected under amendments to the Trade Marks Act 1976.

The move, which is meant to upgrade related laws, would also address issues such as monetisation of intellectual property (IP) and infringement, said Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) intellectual property adviser Abdul Aziz Ismail.

Another provision that would be included is the procedure for single filing. This allows for a person to get protection from various member countries under the World Intellectual Property Orga­nisation (WIPO).

“It will be tabled in Parliament in March after we get the go ahead from the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry and the Attorney-General’s Chambers,” he said during a seminar by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) entitled “Are Intellectual Property Rights Under Siege in Malaysia?” yesterday.

“MyIPO proposed to revamp the Trade Marks Act as it was an old one that was based on Britain’s Trade Marks Act 1938.

“There are a lot of new provisions, especially on the NTM (new trade mark) issues such as sound, smell and colours, and the procedure for single filing to get protection from the various member countries under Wipo,” he said.

The timeline for the law to be in place would be before 2018 or the first quarter of 2018.

Abdul Aziz said changes to the law would still be carried out although US President-elect Donald Trump would likely withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

When asked whether the relevant laws would still be amended if the TPPA was cancelled, Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry principal assistant director Burhan Irwan Cheong said that the law reform would continue.

“But there may be internal review on some of the standards that we are going to introduce purely because of TPP obligations.

“That internal review has not been finalised. There will be a discussion with the lead ministry, Miti (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) this week.

-- The Star

Kerajaan Usaha Wujud Lembaga Penilai Harta Intelek

Kerajaan sedang berusaha menubuhkan Lembaga Penilai Harta Intelek bagi mengeluarkan prosedur operasi standard (SOP) untuk menilai harta intelek (IP) di negara ini, kata Menteri Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan (KPDNKK) Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin.

Menyasarkan penubuhan lembaga itu selewat-lewatnya pada akhir tahun ini, beliau berkata lembaga itu berperanan mengesahkan penilaian sedia ada, yang dilakukan oleh konsultan IP diiktiraf oleh agensi antarabangsa.

Penubuhan lembaga itu akan dikendalikan oleh Jabatan Penilaian dan Perkhidmatan Harta (JPPH) dan Perbadanan Harta Intelek Malaysia (MyIPO).

"JPPH dan MyIPO akan memulakan kerjasama ini secepat mungkin bagi mengumpul penilai IP yang terbaik untuk menentukan SOP, nilai, standard, penanda aras dan sektor sesuatu IP itu nanti.

"Kita percaya usaha ini boleh membantu meningkatkan ekonomi negara kerana IP dianggap aset utama perniagaan yang boleh menjana tunai," katanya kepada pemberita selepas menyaksikan pemeteraian Memorandum Persefahaman (MoU) di antara JPPH dan MyIPO.

Sehingga kini, negara mempunyai 23 orang penilai IP yang diiktiraf oleh agensi antarabangsa hasil inisiatif dan kerjasama MyIPO dengan World Trade Institute (WTI) University of Bern, Switzerland.

Hamzah berkata MoU di antara JPPH dan MyIPO itu, antara lain akan mewujudkan rangka kerja lengkap dalam menjadikan IP sebagai instrumen cagaran dalam kewangan untuk tujuan pembiayaan.

"Pada masa kini kerja-kerja penilaian IP masih baharu dan dalam peringkat pembangunan sebab itu rangka kerja sedang dijalankan untuk memastikan hak pemberi pinjaman dan peminjam," katanya.

Dalam perkembangan lain, Hamzah berkata sejumlah 53 produk tempatan berjaya didaftarkan sebagai IP negara di bawah komponen petunjuk geografi.

"Beberapa produk tempatan dilabel sebagai IP antaranya Lada Hitam Sarawak, Rumpai Laut Sabah dan Asam Pedas Melaka. Produk ini diiktiraf kerana keunikan berdasarkan kedudukan geografinya di negara ini," katanya.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Chatime dispute a wake-up call for Malaysian franchising industry: MFA

The highly publicised dispute over the Chatime franchise highlights the need for better understanding of the mutually beneficial relationship between franchisors and franchisees, according to the Malaysian Franchise Association (MFA).

According to the MFA, franchise agreements provide a win-win situation for both parties, but the challenges inherent are the knowledge and capacity to observe the required conduct by both parties in keeping with the spirit of the agreement.

“The lessons (from disputes) are that one must have full understanding of the business and that one must not be arrogant. Be able to open up and seek prudent views in approaching the issues. You don’t want to waste money on disputes because we want that valuable time to do business,” MFA chairman Datuk Mohd Latip Sarrugi told, explaining that legal fees for franchise disputes can cost RM50,000 to RM100,000.

He said MFA, which has over 300 members, was not approached to mediate in the dispute between Loob Holding Sdn Bhd, the master franchisee for the Chatime brand in Malaysia, and Taiwanese franchisor La Kaffa International Co Ltd.

Loob is not a member of MFA.

“Hypothetically, when members have problem, we normally encourage them to discuss things amicably so that they’re not known to be having issues in the relationship (between franchisor and franchisee), which is not good for growth of that particular brand, nor is it good for the industry. Prudent business normally understands. They don’t want to wash dirty linen in public. If both parties have good conscience and want to do business, they normally settle the issues,” said Latip.

He said over the years, the Malaysian franchise industry has grown and its stakeholders, including franchisors and franchisees, have become more knowledgeable, and tolerance has always been the basis of moving forward.

“I appeal that during these difficult (economic) times, be understanding because this is the time a good franchisor will be seen to be able to guide franchisees in the business. Any changes in the mode of doing business must not result in less favourable (outcome) to the franchisees. The Franchise Act 1998 came into being to regulate the conduct of franchisors and franchisees doing business in this country,” said Latip.

The Franchise Act 1998 states that any changes in the franchise documents must be filed with the Registrar of Franchise under the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism. The registrar can take action against the relevant party for an offence under the Act.

The minimum term for a franchise in Malaysia is five years.

Latip said if a franchisee has defaulted, the franchisor must send a notice to the franchisee to remedy the breach, giving 14 days before any further action is taken.

He highlighted that businesses, especially master franchisees, should consult legal advisers before and during the commencement of business to understand the franchise agreement, and not seek legal advice only when things have turned sour.

“The language in the (franchise) agreement is not ordinary language. You may understand the language but you may not be able to foresee the consequences. There are a lot of details to be aware of. Franchisees should equip themselves before embarking on the franchise business.

"Franchisees must not get lured by the external look of the franchise brand and fashion, because they’re going in for a long-term relationship," said Latip.

Loob, which is expected to unveil its new brand of tea stores by March 6, has lodged a police report against brand owner La Kaffa and is committed to keeping its 165 outlets in Malaysia open. The dispute between Loob and the franchisor came out in the open following La Kaffa’s announcement early last month that it had terminated the franchise and would immediately take over all the 165 Chatime outlets in the country. - The Sun

Friday, December 23, 2016

Harnessing IP Talk

We are organizing an event called 'Harnessing IP' in Technology Park Malaysia, Bukit Jalil on Thursday, 12 Jan 2017, 2.30 pm. Kindly RSVP.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Industrial Design And Plain Packaging

The government wants to introduce plain packaging for cigarette boxes to curb the habit amongst Malaysians. Are they infringing on any corporate rights? Business FM have a chat with Chew Phye Keat, President of the Malaysian Intellectual Property Association (MIPA) and Joshinae Wong, Partner at Christina Chia Law Chambers (CCLC) to have a better comprehension of what is at stake here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

MRM to Govern Rights to Play Music in Public

Image by MyIPO

Music Rights Malaysia Berhad (MRM) have been formed by Minister of Domestic Trade, Datuk Hamzah Zainudin, as the sole agency to manage rights to play music in public. The announcement was made in a dinner hosted by Perbadanan Harta Intelek Malaysia (MyIPO) on 8 Dec 2016. Veteran lyricist Habsah Hassan has been appointed as Secretariat Chairperson for MRM, according to Berita Harian.

Retail stores or restaurants play music to entertain customers. A license is required by a premise to play music in public (in their store). This license have to paid periodically even though the premise owner is playing music from a radio or personal music collection. Note that music form personal music collection provides right for personal use only. MRM will be the sole body to collect licensing fees from parties that play music in public from 1 Jan 2017 onward.

The amount of licensing fee is not mentioned. The licensing fees collected by MRM will be distributed as royalties to people involved in the music industry. Music creation involves multiple parties including:
- lyricists
- composers
- publishers
- performers (artists and musicians)
- recording companies

Currently, there are four copyright collection agencies namely Music Author's Copyright Protection (MACP), Public Performance Malaysia (PPM); Recording Performers Malaysia (RPM) and Performers Rights and Interest Society of Malaysia (PRISM). Parties that play music in public still need to pay their dues to the respective agency before 2017. These four copyright collection agencies will manage the distribution or royalties among its members, even after the establishment of MRM.