Country Focus: Jamaica Celebrates Innovation; Centenary of the Romanian Patent Office
Executive Director of the SRC, Dr. Audia Barnett, presents first prize to Neil Rhule and David Casssanova, inventors of the Fire Stream Media Distribution System. (Photos: SRC)
Jamaica: Celebrating Innovation
A gala evening in Kingston on November 24 saw the launch of Jamaica’s national Innovation Awards for Outstanding Achievements in Science and Technology. Philip Paulwell, the Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, presented prizes for the winning entries in 10 categories, following a three-stage assessment by a panel of judges.
The triennial Awards Programme is the latest initiative in the Jamaican government’s push to raise the profile of science and innovation in a country traditionally better known for its music. By show-casing the contribution of Jamaica’s innovators, the Awards seek to foster better understanding of how innovation boosts national development, and to inspire the upcoming generation.
The development angle was prominent in the entry criteria. To be eligible for consideration all entries had to address a problem of national, regional or international importance; to offer a long term social or economic benefit; to demonstrate the economic use of locally available or indigenous materials; and to be environmentally friendly.
And the winners are ...
First prize went to the Fire Stream Media Distribution System (FSMDS), an integrated visual and data distribution system which seeks to extend the reach of distance learning in developing countries. The FSMDS is billed as a new solution for delivering voice, video and data for mass communication in places where Internet is not easily or cheaply available. "What we have sought to do," explained David Cassanova, one of the three co-inventors, "is to use what is most available in Jamaica, the cell phones and the TV set, and fuse both technologies." The FMDS technology is being used by the Jamaica News Network in the area of cable broadcasting. And the University College of the Caribbean will test the system to deliver two new degree courses under its distance education program. Cable and Wireless Jamaica Ltd. will provide classroom support by sending content to cell phones, while a television link facilitates real time interaction between students and teachers anywhere.
Second place in the Awards went to an advocate of healthy eating, Georgia Jefferson. A traffic engineer by trade, Ms. Jefferson developed a non-chemical process for the preservation of juice and drinks using a widely available local fruit. Her process has been in commercial use since 2004. The third prize was won by Frank Haughton for his Hybrid Solar Dryer system, designed for drying spice, nuts and fruits.
Minister Paulwell pledged the support of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office to assist the projects in order "that their intellectual property can be adequately protected and safeguarded."
Scientific Research Council: pioneering projects
The Awards grew from Jamaica’s Scientific Research Council (SRC) program on innovation and creativity, which was launched in 1988 and led to the establishment of a national Inventors and Innovators Association. The SRC, a government agency, promotes pioneering work across a range of sectors with the goal of harnessing innovative science and technology for national growth.
The SCR has been particularly successful in developing cost saving methods of processing waste water to produce energy. By the end of 2005 the SRC had commissioned over 50 biodigester septic tanks, and over 200 biodigesters for residential and commercial purposes island-wide. The anaerobic technology uses bio-organic processes to break down organic waste, producing biogas, an alternate form of energy. Biogas can be used to power activities such as cooking, lighting and refrigeration, with potential for long term economic benefits.
New food products and processes
The SRC promotes the development of new products and processes using Jamaica's rich flora and fauna.
Other SRC projects seek to stimulate new commercial ventures based on products derived from the abundant local flora. "Nutraceuticals" – foods and dietary supplements which provide medical and health benefits – is a billion dollar global industry and continues to grow. Jamaica is well placed to increase its share in this lucrative world market. Figures from the Planning Institute of Jamaica indicate that 85 of the world’s top-selling medicinal plants grow in Jamaica. These include, for example, ginger and turmeric on which SCR has been conducting tests to determine optimum farming methods. Innovative technologies to extract active ingredients for neutraceutical products, combined with well-focused branding strategies, will help Jamaica to make its mark and increase export revenues in this area.
The SRC’s Food Technology Institute promotes the development of new food products from indigenous raw materials for commercialization by the private sector. Successes include new composite flours comprising 20 to 30 percent indigenous material (yam, breadfruit, cassava, banana), for use as a substitute for imported wheat flour; and new technology for the crystallizing and syruping of ginger.
The Jamaican government is employing a more systematic use of intellectual property tools as a means of increasing the competitiveness of the country’s export industries. With active support from WIPO, the government has recently embarked on a comprehensive national branding program. The branding strategy aims to attract investment and boost exports by means of promoting a positive, well defined brand image of the country itself, and by associating this positive image with specific Jamaican products.
Fostering public awareness of intellectual property is another area in which WIPO collaborates closely with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO). Working together with the national media, the education system and the business sector, JIPO is planning a vigorous outreach campaign for 2006. The central message: that IP and innovation – be it artistic creation or scientific invention – go hand in hand; and that their contribution to individuals, to society, and to the national economy is great.
Centenary of the Romanian Patent Office
Romania has long been aware of the importance of industrial property protection to modern economic development. The Romanian Patent Office opened it doors one hundred years ago, following publication of Romania’s first law on patents –on January 17, 1906. The Law was modern in concept in that it made no distinction between Romanians and foreigners, and provided tax breaks and other incentives to patent owners who "founded an establishment with the exclusive end of working out the patent object". Thus technical creation was officially encouraged, especially in the small enterprise sector.
This progressive approach contributed to Romania’s prosperity between the two World Wars. In the years since, when the Industrial Property Office often had to operate under difficult circumstances, it held on to the objectives set in 1906. Today, the State Office for Inventions and Trademarks (OSIM) is focusing on keeping Romania’s intellectual property laws up to date with most recent developments and aligning them to the European and worldwide standards. Furthermore, OSIM pays particular attention to widening its contact with the users and the public in general, and its program aims particularly at the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. The Program of Cooperation signed between Romania and WIPO in Bucharest in 2001 has contributed to OSIM’s updating of laws, the training of its staff and improving in its awareness program.
Intellectual property has a high profile in Romania, where the Prime Minister himself coordinates the work the State Office for Inventions and Trademarks. It is one of few countries to have a government-approved, comprehensive strategy in the field of intellectual property. The Romanian National Strategy for the Intellectual Property (2003-2007) aims "to promote a coherent policy," and is underpinned by clearly stated strategic objectives together with the "specific actions" required. For example, the item on "Strategic measures for establishment of a proper administrative infrastructure" lists specific actions such as modernization of equipment and information technology systems, improved dissemination of information, increasing the competitiveness of R&D units and SMEs.
Following the National Strategy action plan, and working in cooperation with WIPO, the EPO and the European Union, OSIM has implemented many recent improvements. During the period 2004-2005, seven new laws pertaining to the field of industrial property or relevant to this field were adopted. Cooperation programs have led to the modernization of operations and processes, computerization and automated systems.
The Office introduced a new fee policy on January 1, 2006, which gives strong support to SMEs, researchers and individuals applying for patents, trademarks and industrial design certificates. It provides additional fee reductions for SMEs with annual revenues of under one million Euros: an 80 percent cut in fees compared to the 50 percent previous allowed. Also eligible for an 80 percent fee reduction are applicants/patent owners whose invention is the result of a publicly financed R&D activity.
A current top priority in the National Strategy is work to bring national legislation into line with the European Union norms regarding intellectual property rights in the areas of new plant varieties, trademarks and integrated circuits. The second priority is to boost the administrative capacity of all bodies involved in the enforcement of intellectual property rights, such as the prosecutor’s office, police, customs and border police. The third is to continue to raise the public awareness about the importance of the industrial property rights.
The State Office disseminates information through its 14 Regional Patent Information Centers, which offer services to the general public, researchers, students, technical staff of SMEs and investors. Available free-of-charge at each center are the official industrial property bulletins, supplements containing the European patents valid in Romania, and the Romanian Industrial Property Revue. The centers also have access to all publications edited by OSIM. Within the framework of a Cooperation Program with the European Patent Office, the Regional Centers have been equipped with state-of-the-art computers, which will soon be connected to the central OSIM network.
The Creativity Trophy is a public outreach initiative by the State Office, now in its sixth year. The competition awards trophies and diplomas to companies in each of six fields (R&D and high technology; agriculture, forestry and food; civil engineering; services; commerce; exports and tourism).
OSIM makes a special effort reach out to young people. The Invest in Education program, carried out in 14 high schools and colleges in Bucharest, educates young people on the industrial property protection. Under the One-Day Partners scheme, college students visit OSIM and learn about its activities.
The office participated in over 40 national and international exhibitions in the last year, using every opportunity to promote the advantages of industrial property, but also informing audiences of the dangers of counterfeiting.