InnovUS e-news 9th edition

Friday, 8 April 2011

SU protects its name and reputation

InnovusThe Stellenbosch University enjoys an excellent reputation. Therefore, any misrepresentation and unauthorised use of its name and trademarks (emblem, logo and Maties logo) is prohibited and the University goes to great lengths to protect its reputation in this regard. Only in very limited and exceptional cases are outside parties allowed to allude to their connection with the University and then it is imperative that they adhere to very strict guidelines.

"All written contracts between Stellenbosch University and other parties explicitly prohibits the use of the name of the University (in any form) for the duration of such a contract or thereafter," says André van der Merwe, Patent and Trademark Director: DM Kisch Inc. Mr Van der Merwe points out that any unauthorised use implies that the other party is guilty of several offences in terms of trademark registration, copyright infringement and the so-called passing off in terms of common law. This creates the wrong impression that such an individual and his/her enterprise are associated with the University.

"Not only does the unauthorised use of the name and/or trademarks of the University by another party in the course of trade amount to an infringement of the University's trademark registrations in terms of the Trade Marks Act, No. 194 of 1993 (as amended), the unauthorised copying of the University's trademarks amounts to copyright infringement in terms of the Copyright Act, No. 98 of 1978 (as amended) because the University is the copyright holder of the artistic work embodied in the emblems," says Mr Van der Merwe. "If such an outside party is under a contractual obligation to the University, such unauthorised use amounts to breach of contract."

Mr Van der Merwe warns that in the event of such infringements, the University could take legal steps against the other party. "These steps could include obtaining an urgent interdict from the High Court to prevent continuous use; a claim for damages suffered or a reasonable royalty; and a claim for its legal costs," says Mr Van der Merwe. "This will obviously not only create a major inconvenience and embarrassment for such an outside party but will also result in a costly exercise."

There is a possible solution for outside parties who wish to give recognition to the University on their promotional and other material. "They may consider using the phrase 'developed by a foremost South African University'. This is acceptable when the University does research for the outside party and this application will satisfy the needs and requirements of the other party without amounting to a breach of the above-mentioned policy or rights of the University," says Mr Van der Merwe.

Sensi a success in Venezuala

Children as far afield as Venezuela in South America can now receive life-altering medical care thanks to a new technology originating from Diacoustic Medical Devices (Pty) Ltd, an InnovUS spin-out company. They developed the Sensi decision support package which enables doctors to determine whether children with cleft palates suffer from pathological heart murmurs or whether they are eligible for corrective operations.

According to Thys Cronje, Managing Director: Diacoustic Medical Devices, Sensi significantly decreases the chances of misdiagnosis and therefore heart defects are much more likely to be identified and treated accordingly. "Not many people have the skill to distinguish between a normal heartbeat and that of someone with a pathological heart murmur," says Mr Cronje. "The Sensi programme records the sounds made by the heart with an electronic stethoscope and then analyses these sounds through a computer program."

Mr Cronje explains that the misdiagnosis of heart defects can have significant health consequences and that Sensi was designed to assist medical examiners in heart auscultations.

Sensi started making its way to Venezuela after Mr Cronje met Darko Moskovitz at a medical product show in Düsseldorf. Moskovitz is the father of a child with a cleft palate and the founder of the La Sonrie Conmigo cleft palate foundation in Venezuela. "Before undergoing corrective surgeries, it is very important that these children are checked for congenital heart defects," says Mr Cronje. "It appears that Sensi has been used successfully at La Sonrie Conmigo to determine whether the infants are eligible for surgery or not."

Click here for more information on Diacoustic Medical Devices.

A sound new venture for SU and Salty Dog Studios

InnovUS is currently unlocking exciting new possibilities for research and creative work for staff and students at the Stellenbosch University Department of Music. InnovUS, on behalf of the Department, has entered into an exciting joint venture with Salty Dog Studios, sound studios located in Salt River, Cape Town. This will see the start of a new company, Sounds of Salty Dogs (Pty) Ltd. The venture will take advantage of the growing need for music and sound editing for short and long feature films in the growing post-production film industry.

"The staff and students of the Stellenbosch University Department of Music will play a vital role as technical service providers, contributors of compositions and a source of talented musicians," says Professor Winfried Lüdemann, Head of the Department. The new venture is called Sounds of Salty Dogs and it will actively source local and international opportunities for post-production film editing and sound composition.

"This venture comes at an opportune moment when more and more local and international film studios are searching for service providers who can deliver quality and expertise," says Saberi Marais, Business Developer: InnovUS. "In a broader context the venture will play a major role in the further development of the creative industry in the Western Cape and more specifically, the skills development of SU staff and students who are enthusiastic about careers in post-production film editing."

Peter Theunissen, Managing Director: Sounds of Salty Dogs agrees: "This will showcase Stellenbosch University's world-class facilities and, more importantly, position the University at the forefront of innovation in the music industry." A pilot project was recorded and mixed at the University with world-renowned composer Trevor Jones last year. It was a first for the Western Cape and consisted of a 90 minute South African documentary entitled "My Hunter's Heart".

"We believe that there is an opportunity for associating world-class unique music productions with local brands and tourism," says Mr Theunissen. "That's why we will differentiate ourselves by providing management expertise and excellent content for productions."

Calling all entrepreneurial mavericks

Are you wilfully independent, ambitious and determined to achieve your goals? Do you want to know more about commercialising your research? InnovUS is inviting all Science and AgriScience undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers, Stellenbosch University staff and entrepreneurs to its second Entrepreneurs Evening taking place at the beginning of May.

"The Entrepreneurs Evening aims to raise awareness of how InnovUS, the Science and AgriScience faculties at Stellenbosch University, and partners in industry can offer assistance with the commercialisation of relevant ideas and research," says Philip Marais, part-time Business Developer at InnovUS.

InnovUS, Stellenbosch University's technology transfer company, supports innovation and the commercialisation of ideas. It helps inventors with grand ideas make their way to the market and focuses specifically on patents, business plans, company formation, legal and tax issues. InnovUS also aims to bridge the gap between research and the market by bringing together the experience of leaders in their respective fields. The aim of the Entrepreneurs Evening is to give participants a better understanding of how to commercialise their ideas.

"By making students and staff more aware of the opportunity to commercialise their ideas and of the services available to them, we hope to see more disclosures presented to our office and subsequently more successful spin-out companies and licensing agreements," says Philip.

Places are limited for this event, so please book in advance by calling (021) 808-3826.

IP Act could open new doors

South Africa's new intellectual property rights legislation for universities has created its fair share of controversy in the private sector recently. The Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Funded Research and Development Act limits the transfer of intellectual rights from universities to private entities and this has sparked concern that private companies will be sidelined and that government will monopolise inventions originating from universities. However, Roux de Villiers, Director: Werksmans Attorneys, believes that the new Act and its regulations could be very beneficial for all involved.

Mr de Villiers, a specialist in the licensing of technology, is an expert in transactions involving software, communications infrastructure and patented technology. "If we all fulfil our designated roles, I believe that fears regarding the nationalisation of intellectual property are unjustified and that the new legislation is actually an improvement on the traditional approach," says Mr de Villiers.

To date private sector funders have been contributing to the development costs of new technologies in order to have the resulting intellectual property rights transferred to them. "The problem with this approach is that the intellectual property acquired is generally used internally and then only for as long as it is useful. This means that many other possible commercialisation exploitation opportunities are lost."

Mr de Villiers explains that another drawback of transferring ownership is that the research institute is deprived of any incentive to develop the technology further. In addition, if the private sector funder closes its operations, the intellectual property may be lost altogether.

"In order to address these issues, the Publicly Funded Research and Development Act states that any intellectual property not fully funded by a private entity must remain the property of the research institution," says Mr de Villiers. "However, it is still possible for a private funder to obtain the right to use the research, and adequate exclusive rights may be granted so as to allow the private funder to maintain a competitive edge based on the new technology."

Another potentially lucrative benefit of the new approach is that private funders can share in any revenue generated by the commercial exploitation of new technology by research institutions outside of the private funder's business sphere. "This means that a private funder can share in additional revenue that would not otherwise have been created," says Mr de Villiers.

Mr de Villiers is hopeful that the Act will result in significant economic benefits for South Africa. "If the proposed approach is successfully implemented, the end result should be a marked increase in revenue for all parties concerned, which clearly also stands to benefit the economy. In this way, our new Act may yet fulfil its intended role."

SU water filter features in top publication

Stellenbosch University's new water filter technology has been selected for inclusion in the prestigious Better World Project's 2011 Annual Report. Together with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, it is one of the first two South African universities ever to be honoured in this way. InnovUS submitted a report on the water filter upon a request from the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) and a comprehensive article will appear in the report later this year.

"The Better World Project, an initiative of AUTM, selects only a handful of submissions for inclusion in their Annual Report each year and this is indeed a great honour for Stellenbosch University, the water filter research team, and InnovUS," says Anita Nel, Chief Executive Officer: InnovUS.

AUTM, an international non-profit organisation, launched the Better World Project in 2005 and it is dedicated to improving academic technology transfer globally. The Project aims to promote public understanding of how academic research and technology transfer benefit individuals and communities and its Annual Report is a compilation of articles about innovative new products, focusing on the research, design and commercialisation process.

"The 2011 Better World Report is entitled Respond, Recover, Restructure: Technologies Helping the World in the Face of Adversity and the teabag water filter, designed by Stellenbosch University's Professor Eugene Cloete and his team does exactly that," says Philip Marais, part-time Business Developer: InnovUS. The filter fits into a water bottle filtering out chemicals and killing harmful bacteria. One filter costs approximately 40 cents and can render about 10 litres of potable water. "It was designed in response to a global need for safe and affordable potable water and will also help to decrease South Africa's carbon footprint."

The Stellenbosch University teabag water filter was patented and tested and InnovUS is currently assisting the research team with the commercialisation of the product. Click here for more information on the water filter and here for more information on the Better World Project.