Category Archives: Opacity

Ideas related to squeezing out information from seemingly closed sources.

Voiko patentti tappaa?


Maapähkinää, maitojauhetta, kasviöljyä ja vitamiineja.

Siinä resepti, jonka avulla estetään nälkäkuolemia. Tämän rautaisannoksen jokainen ainesosa on tarkkaan mietitty. Maapähkinää tarvitaan, jotta annos maistuisi hyvältä – nälkään kuoleva kun menettää loppuvaiheessa ruokahalunsa. Kasviöljystä puolestaan saa energiaa, eikä se pilaannu kuumissakaan olosuhteissa nopeasti. Maitojauheessa taas on kalsiumia, joka sitoo aineosat yhteen puolikiinteäksi tahnaksi. Tällöin rautaisannosta ei tarvitse sekoittaa (todennäköisesti likaiseen) veteen.

Tämä täydellinen ja korvaamaton tuote on patentoitu. Yksityinen firma saa päättää, millä hinnalla Unicef ja kumppanit sitä saavat hankkia. Voiko se olla oikein?

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Plumpy’Nut Part 8: Final thoughts

“Loose patent processes at the African end allow large areas of Africa to be covered with minimal work; treaty shopping allows multinationals a simple way to find good ways to tap into those processes.”

It is now time to draw conclusions about the Plumpy’Nut/Nutriset case (see web page).

The ethical aspects of the case are mind-boggling  (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and perhaps unsolvable (see Part 4). The technical aspects of the case are also complex (see Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7). From all this information, can be draw any conclusions about the problems that IPR might cause for humanitarian efforts?

Plumpy’Nut is a useful test case to use because of its technical simplicity: it is a single patent owned by a single company, covering a single product (though very broadly). There are two key problems. Problem one refers to the details of how Nutriset was able to get the patent granted so easily; problem two refers to how the treaty-shopping system is weighted against poor countries.

Continue reading Plumpy’Nut Part 8: Final thoughts

Plumpy’Nut Part 7: What is the African reality?

I have been looking at the African patent system in general, as it relates to the Plumpy’Nut case. In the previous posting, I came to the tentative conclusions that, based on statistics alone, South Africa might be in a reasonably good place when it comes to IPR. However, it is necessary to go into more detail.

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Plumpy’Nut part 6: Is there any country in Africa which is OK?

Digging deeper into the IPR situation in Africa for the Plumpy’Nut case (see Part 5 and web page), I am slowing finding facts — but it is like peeling an onion. Things may look good on paper, but the deeper layers are less and less clear. This is a subject that is actually starting to obsess me a little bit, as it seems to be a white spot on the map. No one knows, no one cares.

South Africa is a good place to start, as it is the powerhouse of the continent, and also has reasonably good statistics and information available. I will have to use fragmented and unsatisfactory data sources, and use a lot of intuition.

Continue reading Plumpy’Nut part 6: Is there any country in Africa which is OK?

Plumpy’Nut Part 5: Why Africa is vulnerable

“Perhaps a patent in Africa simply does not mean the same as a patent somewhere else. On the face of it, this might sound like a good thing: if there is no real functioning patent system, IPR will not cause problems.  On second thought, the idea is not so good after all, because it results in a random system.”

While looking into the Plumpy’Nut case (see Part 4 and web page), I came to realize that I have almost no idea whether flaws in the African patent system are playing a role. There is very little information readily available even on the Internet, and whether that information is reliable is anyone’s guess.  I will have to start from first principles, and dig up what I can. So far, the information is puzzling. Africa does have a patent system on paper; but whether that system actually works is a separate question altogether.

Continue reading Plumpy’Nut Part 5: Why Africa is vulnerable