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IP Watch Interviews Prof. Oguamanam

Posted by Chidi Oguamanam on January 24, 2014 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Willian New, the editor of the Geneva-based Intellectual Property Watch interviews Prof. Oguamanam on his recent book, Intellectual Property in Global Governance (2012): 

By William New, Intellectual Property Watch

In this interview, Intellectual Property Watch’s William New sat down with Prof. Chidi Oguamanam, a professor in the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, to talk about his recent book, “Intellectual Property in Global Governance: A Development Question.” The book, published by Routledge, covers issues of the knowledge economy, structures and regime dynamics, human rights, agriculture, traditional/indigenous knowledge, traditional cultural expressions/folklore, and management of intellectual property in global governance.

Intellectual Property Watch (IPW): Could you please tell us about the book?

Chidi Oguamanam (CO): The first thing that will strike you is how the work brings the concept of global governance into IP analytical framework. Normally, when you talk about global governance, it resonates with the social and political scientists, administrators, development and international relations practitioners and miscellaneous actors at the global level, but hardly with those involved in IP law and policy. So, this work adds to the new trend in interdisciplinary exploration and understanding of IP.

IPW: How does the book address international organisations and IP policy?

CO: Most discussions about IP have been about regimes and institutions, such as WIPO, WTO, UNESCO, FAO, WHO, UNCTAD, etc. These include core IP regimes and institutions as well as those that are peripheral in regard to the subject of IP. But rarely has there been an attempt to weave the operational dynamics of these actors and institutions within the framework of global governance with a dedicated focus on IP.

The book explores how has IP has increasingly become ubiquitous in almost all critical sites of international law and policy, including trade, development, health, agriculture, environment, climate change, biotechnology and ICTs and their ramifications for north-south relations which constitute an integral aspect of global governance dynamic. Seldom would you see literature that maps the tension and dynamics around how IP is implicated within the broader framework of global governance. In this framework, we debunk the tendency to construe IP as a strict legal regime and as a neutral construct. The global governance paradigm explores how a variety of actors (old, new, and emergent) and their interests converge within the complex sites or international forums. And we see IP issues retain a perpetual pressure and constitute a level of high tension and political horse-trading in different forums, the aggregation of which help to tease out the interface of IP and global governance.

IPW: So the book looks at governance in a new way.

CO: The whole concept of global governance is not really a concept of global government but rather how actors and interests come together in a complex interplay of issue linkages that now shape and shift interests around innovation, intellectual property and creativity.

Among other things, what you see is a text that engages in a comprehensive exploration of hot button IP issues, ranging from what the book characterises as the interface of “four Bs” – biodiversity, bioprospecting, biotechnology and biorevolution – as a conceptual outlook for understanding familiar discourses around traditional knowledge, access to medicines, food security, access and benefit sharing over the utilization of genetic resources in multiple innovation contexts that have ramification for the most vulnerable in the global south. In this matrix, we are able to appreciate how IP is engaged in a contested manner around knowledge governance with largely inequitable outcome.

IPW: What are the implications for IP policy?

CO: Over the last several decades, IP has been a target of maximalist protection strategies that have been contested within and across regimes in a manner that reinforces the traditional asymmetrical power relations between the global north and south. But with the rise of so-called medium-level powers of the global south such as Brazil, India, South Africa and, if you like, China, and their economic alignment under the BRICS banner, it remains to be seen how much leverage these countries have to shape the future direction of IP policy.

Because of the significant prevalence of poverty in the demographic of these countries and the urgency for development, it may be appropriate to expect that they are likely to influence global IP policy direction in a less maximalist or protectionist direction toward a more public interest oriented direction. However, doubts remain whether these regional players would perpetuate the status quo of maximalist IP protection when they attain what Peter Yu characterises as the “cross-over point” as technologically strong IP exporters.

END

For more information about the book:

Routledge: http://www.taylorandfrancis.com/catalogs/routledge_research_in_law/1/11/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Intellectual-Property-Global-Governance-Development-ebook/dp/B0076XCPHK

Collaborative Capacity Building In Intellectual Property: Leveraging On African Diaspora Exchange

Posted by Chidi Oguamanam on January 3, 2013 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Inside Views: Collaborative Capacity Building In Intellectual Property: Leveraging On African Diaspora Exchange

First Published on Intellectual Property Watch

 

By Chidi Oguamanam

 

Depending on where one locates its advent, contemporary globalization is now, certainly, more than half a century. It requires asking whether globalization has been beneficial to Africa. One quick and easy way of addressing this often asked question is to cursorily look at the regional dynamics of over half century of globalization.

 

Not many disagree that the East Asian, Southeast Asia and South American regions have taken a quantum leap. China, India and Brazil have indisputably emerged as regional economic and global powers. Despite prevalent poverty and inequity in these continental and sub-continental countries, there is demonstrable evidence that they have been and are on the march. And the world has taken notice. Today, these countries are accorded the recognition and respect they deserve as they continue to wield influence and to shape the global economic and power dynamics.

 

But the African picture has not been as exciting. Through globalization’s trajectories, Africa is still the continent with the highest concentration of least developed countries. It is still home to the most vulnerable in direst need of the basic means of human survival. It is perhaps the most vulnerable region to global climate crisis as it is the least prepared for the challenge. On a global scale, human development indicators in Africa still remain the worst. If any claim can be fairly made of globalization in regard to Africa, it is this: Globalization has not changed the status quo about Africa. Nonetheless, there are visible signs of change in contemporary Africa.

 

In the last couple of decades, there has been a “big buzz” about Africa. This is as the US, Europe and most of the developed world’s economies fumble and contract. The downward economic trends in Europe and the US are results both of systemic failures as well a consequence of involuntary, even if inevitable, structural calibrations to accommodate the continuing shift in the global economic status quo instigated by the emerging powers. At the same time, the red-hot growths of the new emerging economies have begun to show signs of slowing down or stabilizing.

 

But Africa’s regional economy is surging. Compared to other regions, Africa seems to have successfully weathered the global financial crisis of 2008-2010, for reasons outside the present discussion. Today, African countries constitute 80 percent of the fastest growing economies in the world (simply 8 out of 10). These eight economies (Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Angola and Malawi) are growing at a rate of double or close to double digits. As far-fetched as it sounds, it is projected that at the current growth rate, by 2050 Africa’s economy will surpass that of the United States and Europe combined.

 

Africa has become the destination of choice for foreign direct investments (FDIs). Africa’s traditional partners in the West (Europe and the United States) are fast being displaced by China, India and Brazil. The three are pushing and digging into Africa not only to satisfy their appetite for energy and natural resources, but also to leverage their political influence in a fast changing world order.

 

The contemporary transformation in the global economy in which Africa is strategically implicated unravels the catalytic role of two major technological revolutions. They are the digital and biotechnology innovations. From rural and mobile telephony to diverse computing applications and the wonders of the internet, digital technologies have changed the global landscape and have left nothing untouched. From resource extraction, harnessing of genetic resources for food, agriculture and medicine, to various creative repertoire in music, movie, choreography, and resourceful deployment of the cyberspace to energize the social media, personal cum communal exchanges and democratic participation, nothing has escaped the innovative potential of the digital overhang. From research in medicine, to agriculture, food production and processing, and various aspects of life sciences, the marriage of digital technologies and biotechnologies continues to transform our society.

 

The two technologies of transformation and global transition to the knowledge economy are essentially proprietary. Consequently, current African economic activism and attractiveness is consolidated through the pivotal role of intellectual property rights. It is hardly surprising that intellectual property rights have expanded exponentially since the mid-1990s in order to optimize benefits and control for innovators. Africa is both a consumer and is fast transitioning into a producer of new technologies and innovation.

 

Like most African countries, Nigeria had embarked on critical transformations in virtually all sectors of its economy since the return of democracy in 1999. The corruption-ridden privatization regime of the early 2000s has swept through the telecommunications, power, ports, banking, petroleum, agriculture and the broadcast industries to name the few. All of these involve the opening up of the market for FDIs and competition. Because technology is the driver of the new ways of doing things, the ability of countries to optimize their interests in the new environment depends, in part, on how they leverage on intellectual property rights and technology transfer in the pursuit of their peculiar development objectives. If a country is not well equipped in the intellectual property and knowledge governance front, it is less likely to optimize opportunities on the critical issue of technology transfer and capacity building. Without strong capacity in intellectual property and overall knowledge governance, the present buzz about Africa may be one in which Africa yet again receives a short end of the stick even in the new framework of South-South partnerships.

 

Africa’s ability to leverage its increasing visibility and preference for South-South economic partnerships will significantly depend on how well it is equipped to manage the intellectual property complements and components of the contemporary economic transformations. So far, Nigeria has waddled through the transformations in its economy by an ad hoc or fire brigade approach to acquiring capacity in intellectual property in the public sector, the practicing Bar and other critical stakeholders. All of these actors seem overwhelmed by the turn of events. As far back as the 1990s, the practicing Bar constituted an intellectual property lobby, the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association (IPLAN), which has no training or capacity building agenda on IP for its members even as it exerts little influence in areas of IP administration and law reform. The paucity of IP manpower is as true in the practicing Bar as it is in the judiciary and the academia in Nigeria and, indeed, all of Africa. The development of capacity and expertise has not kept pace with the expansion and sophistication of intellectual property. That state of affairs depicts a structural fault line in Africa’s ability to optimize on-going economic and social transformations.

 

Beyond piracy and other forms of copyright infringement that dominates the media, thanks to the Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Nollywood stakeholders, much more is happening at the intersection of intellectual property and Nigeria’s economic rebirth. We need expertise in IP such as patent rights, especially in: biotechnology at large (including health, food, agriculture, chemistry, pharmaceuticals); the newer regime of rights around traditional knowledge, farmers’ rights, digital rights management, software, domain name; electronic and mobile commerce and the jurisdictional challenges of cyberspace-driven transactions. One can go on and on.

 

In comparison to the practicing Bar, the civil service, its bureaucrats and other stakeholders, the academia is in stronger position to lead the initiative for national capacity building in intellectual property. Because of academic freedom, the legal academy is not bogged down by bureaucracy and is in a position to seize the opportunity presented by the capacity gap through self-education and collaborative interdisciplinary curriculum development. The good news is that we do not need to re-invent the wheel. It is already past the time to start things from scratch; that option was never available. Innovation in the digital age is fast-paced, unpredictable and continues to push the intellectual property envelope to directions many thought were not plausible. The task of raising new generation of homegrown human IP resource software to meet the challenges of our economic transformation can be accomplished in a number of ways. Not the least of which is the institutionalizing of continuing legal education by IP scholars, practitioners and all stakeholders in this increasingly expanding field.

 

To do this and more, the IP legal academy can enlist and leverage Nigeria’s expansive Diaspora. Nigeria has the largest global dispersal of African Diaspora in the professions, including in the IP academy. Nigerians are nested in critical areas of cutting edge IP expertise across the globe. With mutual nurturing of Diaspora and homeland solidarity in this important area at individual and institutional levels, we could build critical partnerships and linkages. At limited expense, such partnerships can advance both professor and student exchanges for shorter, medium and longer term programs of various kind. As well, this form of exchange has potential for cross-fertilization of ideas toward effective curriculum development that responds to local and global challenges in this critical area of expertise.

 

Unfortunately, Nigerian universities and research establishments have shown reluctance to encourage even traditionally subsidized sabbatical exchanges with Nigerian Diaspora. This trend is a disservice and sabotage to national interest. The Diaspora and local are mutually complementary; there is much each can learn from the other. Contrary to popular assumptions, Diaspora-homeland exchange is not a unidirectional relationship. In order for the envisaged collaboration to thrive, we need first a viable Nigerian Intellectual Property Academy as the pivot to build and nurture the required network and linkages toward plugging the capacity gap in intellectual property.

 

As an initiative with a significant Diaspora component, the Open African Innovation Research and Training (Open-AIR)’s collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) exemplifies the translation and realization of a practical Africa-wide Diaspora initiative on intellectual property training and capacity building.

 

Second, we need strong local institutional commitment to buy into this vision. Related to that, we need a culture of transparency, accountability and efficiency in the management of collaborative research funds and other forms of assistance and partnership. My experience is that such a culture of trust is fundamental for successful and sustainable collaboration. Third, perhaps most importantly, our local institutions should make the issue of creating an effective, functional and interactive web presence a priority. Fourth, those who occupy administrative position in the digital era should strive to be technologically savvy and reflect the efficiency and short turnaround time that is the convention and received wisdom of the new internet-based world.

 

As Africa gets onto the cusp of a nascent renaissance, a truly development-oriented approach to intellectual property is an imperative. Homeland-Diaspora intellectual property academy capacity building partnership has never been more urgently desirable. Despite international initiatives on intellectual property training and capacity building, the crisis of confidence over the “development content” of those initiatives can be mitigated by a homeland-Diaspora partnership for capacity building in intellectual property.

 

 

Chidi Oguamanam is a Professor at the University of Ottawa (Canada) Faculty of Law. His bio is here.

 

This article is adapted from an address by the author at the “International Conference on Intellectual Property Capacity Building for Development: The Role of Scholars” jointly convened by the Open Africa Innovation Research and Training (Open AIR), in collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of Lagos Campus, Akoka, 22 November 2012.

http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/01/02/collaborative-capacity-building-in-intellectual-property-leveraging-on-african-diaspora-exchange/


IP in Global Governance: A Venture in Critical Reflection

Posted by Chidi Oguamanam on July 13, 2011 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)


In this article, I take the platform provided by the new WIPO Journal to reflect, randomly, on the state of intellectual property (IP) law in the global governance context, especially in the last decade and a half since thecommencement of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as the catalystof the current global IP order. I identify some progress and accomplishments, some failures as well as some challenges, and speculate on the future directionof global IP law and policy-making. I conduct this task against the backdrop of a changing global political and economic landscape currently being redrawn by the BRICS bloc of countries, i.e. the emerging regional and global economic powers. I argue that the status quo in the global governance of IP has run its full course and that the time is ripe for a new direction, or so it seems. Not much is certain regarding how this change would evolve. If anything is certain, it is the urgency for mainstreaming of the development imperative in the globalgovernance of IP.    <<<read more>>>

 


Genetic Resources, Access and Benefits Sharing: Politics, Prospects and Opportunities for Canada After Nagoya: New Publication

Posted by Chidi Oguamanam on June 26, 2011 at 4:47 PM Comments comments (0)

Following the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2010, developed countries, including Canada, have reason to take the ABS issue more seriously now than ever. The tendency to dismiss ABS as a developing country issue is no longer sustainable; neither is the dichotomization between countries as users and producers of genetic resources. Exploring the ecological and aspects of Canada's biotechnology and political profile, in this article, I reflect on how best Canada can translate the ABS Protocol to optimally benefit all stakeholders, including its biotechnology industrial establishments and its Aboriginal peoples in the overall interest of sustainable biodiversity conservation. Given the complex political and federal structure of Canada (not to mention the cross-cutting nature of biological resources and associated knowledge) and Canada's tensed relationship with Aboriginal Peoples, is Canada prepared to domesticate the ABS Protocol? If so, how best and how soon can Canada do so? Are there sufficient structures on ground (since Canada became the first industrialized country to ratify the CBD) to leap onto the Nagoya Protocol? Following Canada’s reluctant and belated signing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,do we see Canada getting on board Nagoya? How best can Canada’s implementation of the ABS Protocol account for Aboriginal Peoples' interest?

 

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Withdraw this ministerial nomination, Mr. President

Posted by Chidi Oguamanam on Comments comments (0)

 

Recently, Canada recorded a conviction under its extant Elections Act. In that case, which is now under appeal, Michael Sona, a Conservative Party campaign employee got a nine-month jail sentence and a year on probation as a result of his role in the so-called “robocalls” incidents. The “robocalls” refer to automated calls that targeted opposition party supporters and falsely advised them, on Election Day, of a change in their designated polling centres. The objective was to frustrate and, conceivably, disenfranchise citizens who would have voted for rival parties. The judgment text and newspaper reports of this landmark decision demonstrate the judge’s stern view of Sona’s conduct. He called the “robocalls” scheme an “ill-conceived and disturbing plan” and a “callous and blatant disregard for the right of people to vote”. No member of the Parliament or any other serving politician has been cited, directed or indirectly, in the “robocall” affair. In fact, before any politician could be linked to such an affair, it is the custom in the Canadian clime that they will be the first to resign, and submit themselves to the legal consequences of their misconduct.

 

But consider the “Ekitigate” whereof an alleged audio record of political conspiracy that plausibly influenced the outcome of the governorship election in Ekiti State has surfaced. The “Ekitigate” is associated with leading members of the ruling party, including cabinet ministers of the Federal Government. So far, responses from a majority of the individuals cited have been quite jerky. Initial denials of the audio recording and lame attempts at disputation of the authenticity of the voices of dramatis personae have given way to incoherent narratives over the context and motive of the meeting at the Spotless Hotel, Ado-Ekiti venue of the alleged recorded exchanges.

 

The President’s response has been typical. The suggestion was that the audio record was fabricated for political motives. Not surprisingly, there is no appetite to conduct an investigation on the part of the Presidency, not even to clear the President whose errand, one of the actors claimed to be running in the alleged election rigging controversy. It is convenient for the government to claim that the whistle-blower is required to substantiate his allegations; notwithstanding that he is now on a self-imposed exile. But the authorities expediently forget that they can also provide the whistle-blower assurance of security and personal safety. In his interview with “Sahara TV”, the whistle-blower claimed that he fled the country out of fear for his life. In the same interview, he claimed that his younger brother has been victimised by the military whose personnel were also alleged to be part of the “Ekitigate.”

 

Time and again, when the President has the opportunity to address the issue of corruption in Nigeria even as a mere discussion point, he is wont to trivialise it. From the President’s worldview, it is either that small theft is not corruption or that the issue of corruption is blown out of proportion by the media. I am still imagining what quantum of corruption would be satisfactory for the President to appreciate that corruption is an albatross in the country he is presiding over. And it is hardly surprising that the impunity label has stuck with this Presidency like a stamp. While the President is inclined to make a political capital of his modest and humble background in one step, in another, he progressively remains disconnected with the reality and feelings of the Nigerian people.

 

The President has recently nominated Musiliu Obanikoro, an erstwhile minister and a pivotal party cited in the “Ekititgate” shenanigan. Obanikoro vacated his ministerial position for a shot at his party’s nomination for the governorship ticket for Lagos State, which he lost. Calling him back to the cabinet was at attempt to soothe the political bruises of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos State arising from Obanikoro’s defeat in the party primaries. He has since withdrawn his threat of court action against his party over the primaries. Elsewhere, this form of kiss-and-make-up attracts serious sanction. In Ontario, the Premier’s (Nigerian equivalent of a state governor) deputy chief of staff is currently accused of inducing a former nominee of the ruling provincial liberal party in a recent by-election to get him to step aside from running for the election. The Premier’s senior staff was allegedly caught on tape suggesting that the Premier was disposed to assist the non-preferred candidate to find a job. The allegation is already a subject of investigation by both the Provincial Police and Elections Canada. In Nigeria, the Ontario’s situation would be preposterous. Mindful of context and political culture, I am not suggesting a political transposition. But in relation to Nigeria, the Ontario scenario paints a portrait of sharp contrast.

 

Admittedly, the President nominated Obanikoro before the “Ekitigate” came into the open. For all intents and purposes, the “Ekitigate” is now a distraction requiring the ruling party, the Presidency and all parties cited to clear the air on the matter that refuses to go away. The most sensitive thing for the President to do is to withdraw the nomination since Obanikoro has not honourably declined the nomination himself. Without staking hope on the senators’ ability to follow through, so far, the Senate has twice failed to allow the ministerial nominee – himself a former senator – the privilege of the usual “bow-and-go”confirmation ritual. Opposition party senators have frowned over Obanikoro’s nomination in view of the “Ekitigate”. Yet, it does not seem the Presidency is getting the message.

 

By the way, how many months would Obanikoro serve as a minister before the elections and inauguration of a new government on May 29, 2015? Why would this President continue to take Nigerians for granted? Why would he continue to even alienate a segment of Nigerian constituency, especially those outside the partisan political fray, who might yet be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt? When will this Presidency perceive a political opportunity and seize it, even one that could not cost it anything? Why choose impunity over integrity? President Goodluck Jonathan should withdraw the Obanikoro nomination and, for once, show respect for the Nigerian people. It is too late already, but better late than never.

This op-ed appeared in The Punch newspaper of Monday March 9, 2015 under the title: Withdraw this ministerial nomination, Mr. President.