PIIPA’s project and interview with Mark Davis | Colombia-Canada
June 26th, 2012 by Danny G. Pérez y Soto - B&R Research
On Friday 22nd of June 2012 we received Mr. Mark Davis, president and CEO of the Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors –PIIPA-, at B&R Latin America’s headquarters in Bogotá.
Mr. Davis is visiting Colombia to launch PIIPA’s latest project: “Enhancing Opportunities in the Canadian Market for Innovative High-Value Colombian Agricultural Products”, which we covered in previous posts. This project’s goals include assessing the state of IP rights in the country, conducting pro bono counseling and training to key players in the national agricultural market, and improving the protection of products through IP while retaining wealth in rural areas.
During his visit to our firm, we heard about the project’s beginnings, long term goals and the public-interest driven rationale behind the project. Especially important, is the vision of turning the Colombian agricultural market into a regional hub of adequate Intellectual Property protection. As well as our firm, PIIPA also sees Latin America as a regional rather than a national market for IP, and is completely aware of the trends in regulatory and economic integration in the continent, not only in the Andean Community but in the whole region. The accomplished achievements with this project are expected to be replicated in neighboring countries, especially in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian markets.
Our research department interviewed Mr. Davis for more information on this project. This is what he answered:
B&R: You’ve previously said that one of the main goals of this project was to get producers to the Food Export Show in Toronto. Given that the main strength in the Colombian agricultural market is flowers, why focus on the food industry instead? Why the Food Export Show?
Mark Davis: –This particular project is not just focused on food, it’s focused on high-value agricultural products. Certainly the flower industry is one of the biggest to the North American market; I know I see it in the US all the time and we’re certainly aware of the amount of flowers being exported to Canada.
–So it’s not just about food. However, often the food products -such as something in the Passiflora species… passion fruits- have very distinctive flavor profiles, color, appearance, whatever it may be; that are really being able to get the extra money in a foreign market for adding that extra high value. From a consuming marketing perspective, it really is very attractive.
–The average consumer can’t tell if the flower came from Colombia or Florida, but they can look at a fruit and say “oh! I know where this fruit came from” and that’s much better because they identify certain kinds of fruits from tropical environments, and that have that protection from trademark and good labeling.
–We don’t really know where our flowers come from in North America, for the most part, and no one ever tells us. Flowers are important but, for a distinctive-origin product that a consumer would recognize and go “oh, I’m gonna pay the extra money because I know this is very special” then, I think that food products have a much higher value.
B&R: What are the needs in the Colombian market that you identified to start with this project?
Mark Davis: –The primary needs were: helping people understand plant-breeders rights, plant varieties, what IP can do and cannot do from a producer’s perspective; how can cooperatives use IP to further the the business mission, supporting economically the work that everyone does. And general awareness of how IP can be used, not only for internal markets but also for external markets.
–PIIPA and CIAT had a 3 day meeting in Cali in November 2010, we had 60 people from 16 countries and the whole discussion was IP needs in agriculture across the continent, across the region. We had people from Brazil, from Chile, etc. Out of that discussion came this very broad set of goals in a way of supporting agricultural development from an IP perspective across Latin America.
B&R: Does the project have any public policy goals?
Mark Davis: –We do not. PIIPA is not a policy organization, we’re practical. We let the policy to policymakers. We can support policy development from a very practical point of view. One example is, for instance, last year in the Philippines we worked with the Philippine IP Office because they had passed a technology transfer act. We helped them implementing that regulation, and help them refine the tech transfer act, just because of our own experience from the Bayh-Dole Act in the US being quite successful in the area of technology transfer.
–We prefer to partner with organizations and really be very practical and pragmatic because we feel that’s where the best value is, in the application of IP. There are many other organizations that talk about the theoretical side of policy, is it good? Is it bad? Not the practical side.
The first goal of the project, which is conducting an IP nationwide audit, will take place in late 2012. We will post on this blog updates on this project, dates for the training courses and any information relevant for Colombian producers or entrepreneurs.
PIIPA is an international nonprofit organization that provides pro bono intellectual property legal counsel to interest groups in developing countries. The project for enhancing opportunities in Canada for Colombia’s agricultural industry has been the work of PIIPA’s President & CEO, R. Mark Davis, a team of advisors that includes Alvaro Ramirez Bonilla, founding partner of B&R Latin America, and important partner organizations, such as CIAT, CENIRED, ProExport and the SIC.