Monday, December 29, 2014

Oh patents! Oral-B® indicator toothbrush

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

What kind of toothbrush do you use?  If it is an Oral-B® indicator toothbrush then it will have a few rows or other configuration of blue bristle tuffs that fade with use. This is patented technology designed to inform you that it is time to change your toothbrush!

US4802255 titled Novel brush filaments is the patent corresponding to this indicator technology, originally filed by The Gillette Company in 1989. The principle of the invention resides in dying the filaments with food grade dyes in such a manner that the degree of fastness and penetration of the dye into the filament correspond to the wear characteristics of the filament. Thus, change in the intensity of filament color becomes “a reliable indicator of the filament deterioration due to wear.”

Embodying the invention thus consisted in calculating the correct degree of dye fastness and depth of penetration into the filament, according to such variables as the width of the filament cross section , the material used for the filament (e.g., nylon), the use of solvents and/or surfactants to enhance or control penetration of the dye into the filament.

In general it is assumed that a visual indicator of bristle wear will serve to remind users to change their toothbrushes. The recommended length of toothbrush use is on average three months, although, according to consumer data quoted in the patent, users tended (in 1989) to change toothbrushes only once a year!  

The abstract for US4802255 titled Novel brush filaments is included below with a patent figure of the filament showing the dyed portions of the filament. A commercial picture of the indicator bristle tuffs for an Oral-B® toothbrush is included above.*

"Novel, improved filaments (20) for brushes. The filaments (20) include a colored region (26) provided by a dye colorant and the colored region (26) is adapted to provide a color intensity which can change in response to increased use of the filament to provide a signal indicative of filament wear. The filaments (20) are particularly useful in toothbrushes."

 *Oral-B® used to belong to the Gillette Company before it was purchased by Proctor & Gamble.
The "B"in Oral-B® stands for "Brush".

Thursday, October 30, 2014

UN International Day of the Girl Child (Oct. 11)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 60/170 to declare October 11th International Day of the Girl Child, in culmination of an effort  to uncover some of the unacceptable obstacles that girls face, to recognize girls’ human rights worldwide, and to empower them to reach their full potential. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s message on October 11, 2014, fully expressed the outrage and anger that motivates this day of campaigning and activism for girls’ rights. Below, the opening statements of his message and his concluding call to all governments:

“All over the world, an alarming number of adolescent girls are assaulted, beaten, raped, mutilated and even murdered.  The threat of violence at the hands of family members, partners, teachers and peers grossly violates their rights, diminishes their power and suppresses their potential. 
This violence is exacerbated and reinforced by the multiple deprivations adolescent girls face, including unequal access to education, skills, information, sexual and reproductive health services, and social and economic resources.  Girls are subjected to discriminatory social norms and harmful practices – such as female genital mutilation -- that perpetuate a cycle of violence.  A culture of impunity allows violence against adolescent girls to continue unabated.  Conflict and humanitarian crises dramatically increase the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. […]
On this International Day of the Girl Child, I call on all governments to take action to end all forms of violence against girls in all parts of the world.  Together, we must create a world where violence against women and girls is never tolerated and girls are always empowered to reach their full potential”.[UN– 2014]
On the day before, the 2014 Nobel Peace prize was awarded jointly to Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan) and Kailash Satyarthi (India) for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and the right of all children to education” [Nobel 2014]. Indeed, Malala Yousafzai, a young 17-year old Pakistani activist for girls’ right to education, under Taliban rule, was shot three times, on Oct. 9, 2012, after the gunman called her name….to target the right person... Kailash Satyarthi is a prominent activist against child labor and child trafficking, in a world where women and girls account for 75% of all trafficking victims. 27% of all victims are children. Of every three child victims, two are girls, one is a boy. [UN, 2012]
The International Day of the Girl Child, with its strong and urgent message to end violence against young girls and women, and to uphold their human rights, is also celebrated this year at a time when 219 high school girls remain hostage in Nigeria. 276 of them were abducted from  their school, 6 months ago on April 15, by Nigerian extremists, intent on “selling and marrying them….” according to some strict interpretation of the Islamic Shariah Law… [ABC News - Oct 22, 2014 and Oct, 18, 2014]… or perhaps getting ransom money, whichever appears more lucrative…
The figures for violence perpetuated on girls are “distressingly high” according to Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF: “An estimated 70 million girls aged 15 to 19 report being victims of some form of physical violence while around 120 million girls under the age of 20 have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts. At the same time, 70 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 who had been victims of physical or sexual violence never sought help as many said they did not think it was abuse or did not see a problem.[..] These numbers speak to a mind-set that tolerates, perpetuates, and even justifies violence – and should sound an alarm to everyone, everywhere.” [UN News,2014]
This is an opportunity to set calendar alerts for October 11, 2015. In 2015, the UN will take stock on  eight UN Millennium Development Goals, outlined at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, and reset the horizon for a decade or more - women and girls included --this time with a call for the active support of men and boys [UN - HeForShe].
ABC News (Oct. 22, 2014) Nigeria truce is shaky. No News of abducted girls.
ABC News (Oct. 18, 2014) Cautious optimism over Nigeria’s kidnapped girls.
Kailash Satyarthi
Malala Yousafzai
Nobel 2014 -
UN (2014) International Day of the Girl Child – October.
UN (2012) The global report on trafficking in persons

UN News (Oct. 10, 2014) Ahead of International Day of the Girl Child, UN urges end to violence against women, girls

Monday, October 27, 2014

Humanitarian causes - Test your IQ on maternal health @ PIH!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Remember testing your IQ on hunger at the UN World Food Program (WFP) for World Food Day?  Now, how about testing your IQ on “Maternal health in the world” at Partners in Health (PIH)? Just 3 questions, and 2 minutes of your time; and for every test taken, fifty cents (US .50 cts) will be donated to PIH (Partners in Health) to save mothers’ lives!  ...At the very least, that should take a bit of the unfairness out of testing!...
What is PIH (Partners in Health)?
The story of the people who founded Partners in Health is told in a NY Times bestseller titled Mountains beyond mountains: The quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world (Kidder, 2004).  In all fairness, one could probably add to the title of this absolutely wonderful book: “with the help of his best friends”. And then mention PIH’s three additional co-founders:  Ophelia Dahl (also daughter of Roald Dahl, the famed children’s author of such classics as James and the Giant Peach Mathilda or Charlie and Chocolate Factory), Dr. Jim Yong Kim (now President of the World Bank, also selected in 2006 by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, among countless additional very distinguished accolades), Todd McCormack (also president of IMG Media), and the now deceased Tom White.

PIH was initially founded in 1987 as a non-profit organization intended to deliver healthcare in poverty stricken areas of the Central Plateau in Haiti.  Twenty-seven years later, in partnerships with Harvard University, private foundations, non-profits, and the national governments of many developing countries, PIH operates pioneering and model healthcare partnership programs in poverty-stricken areas on 4 continents. In particular, the organization has pioneered model partnership programs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in places such as Chiapas, Mexico; the slums of Lima in Peru; the Neno district of Malawi and Lesotho, South Africa, where it was believed that such care and treatment could not be delivered. At root, the PIH partnership programs rely on a community-based system of trained healthcare workers, connected to the larger healthcare systems and institutions. In the US, PIH is partnered, for example, with the Navajo Nation, Native American COPE (Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment) program for the prevention of chronic diseases.

 In the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, PIH was also instrumental in rebuilding the shattered Haitian healthcare system with a teaching hospital and center of medical excellence, the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, and successfully joined forces to fight a cholera epidemic.  This proved to be the culmination, and shining star, of a model designed to develop top quality healthcare in a poverty-stricken country, as the teaching hospital has the capacity to generate its own doctors and nurses, and to provide state of the art technologies where none existed at all.  Another PIH partnership also resulted in building the Butaro Hospital, in Rwanda, a teaching hospital, and model hub of medical excellence for East Africa, which opened in 2011. The hope, now, is to develop such a medical infrastructure of excellence and teaching in West Africa, in Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, where the Ebola pandemic is raging, with a long term view of forever preventing the risks of such pandemics   

PIH is a tireless and relentless advocate of health as human right.  And, to a large extent, PIH has succeeded in securing these rights in many forsaken and destitute areas, including tuberculosis-infected Russian jails. If “everything that is wrong in the world” stems from thinking that “some lives matter less”, as Dr. Farmer believes, then this much is now clearly articulated, and on the map for “building better”, as former President Clinton puts it.

(FYI - I have included, in the list of references below, the most important publications authored by Dr. Farmer, and  a Charlie  Rose interview  on May 16, 2013 with Dr. Farmer, on Repairing the world)
So, what about Mothers’ health…?

Figures are daunting on mothers’ health
  • World wide, 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth everyday of very preventable causes. [UN-WHO, Fact Sheet #348]
  • 289,000 women died in childbirth in 2013. And for every woman who dies in childbirth, there are an estimated 20 more who suffer injury, infection or disease, related to childbirth or pregnancy, a total of 10 million each year. [US-WHO- Why?]
  • 87 percent of the women dying in childbirth are from Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia [UN-WHO, 2014]
  • As a direct consequence of maternal death, about 1 million children are left motherless each year. These children are more likely to die within 1 to 2 years of their mother’s death.  [US-WHO – Why?]
  • Adolescent girls face a higher rate of complications and deaths as a result of pregnancy than older women. [UN-WHO –Fact sheet #348]

So, what did you score on the PIH Mothers’ Health Quizz? ….Incidentally, October 11, 2014, was the UN declared International Day of the Girl Child.

Dahl, R. ( 2007 )  James and the Giant Peach Illustrator Quentin Blake.  New York, NY: Puffin-Penguin Books.
Dahl, R. (2007)  Mathilda. Illustrator Quentin Blake.  New York, NY: Puffin-Penguin Books.
Dahl, R. (2007) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Illustrator Quentin Blake.  New York, NY: Puffin-Penguin Books.
Farmer, P. Dr. (2013) To repair the world: Paul Farmer speaks to the next generation. J. Weigel (Ed.) Foreword by Bill Clinton. California Series in Public Anthropology. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Farmer, P. Dr. and Fr. G. Gutierrez (2013) In the company of the poor: Conversations with Dr. G. Gutierrez. Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block (Eds). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Farmer, P. Dr. , Yong Kim, J. Dr. , Kleinman, A. and M. Basilico (Eds.)(2013) Reimagining global health: An introduction California Series in Public Anthropology. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Farmer, P. Dr. (2010 ) Partner to the poor: A Paul Farmer reader. Haun Saussy (Ed.). Foreword Tracy Kidder. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Farmer, P. Dr., (2007) Women, poverty and AIDS: Sex, drugs and sexual violence. Margaret Connors and Janie Simmons (Eds.) Series in Health and Social Justice.
Farmer, P. Dr. (2006) AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the geography of blame. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Farmer, P. Dr. (2005) The uses of Haiti. Introduction by Noam Chomsky. Foreword by Jonathan Kozol. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. 
Farmer, P. Dr. (2003) Pathologies of Power: Health, human rights and the new war on the poor. Foreword by Amartya Sen. California Series in Public Anthropology. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Farmer P. Dr.  (2001) Infections and inequalities: The Modern Plagues. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Kidder, T. (2004) Mountains beyond mountains: The quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world .  New York, NY: Random House.
PIH – Test yourself – re: maternal care
Rose, Ch. (2013) Charlie Rose interviews Dr. Paul Farmer on Repairing the world. May 16, 2013.  
UN-WHO 2014 – Progress Report - Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent health
UN-WHO – Fact Sheet #348 – Maternal Health
UN-WHO – Why do so women still die in pregnancy or childbirth

Saturday, October 18, 2014

World Food Day

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

October 16, 2014. was World Food Day, under the auspices of the UN World Food Program (WFP).   

This is another United Nations agency that loves zeros, as in zero hungry people in the world… or UNICEF’s zero child mortality… So hip hip… for the magic of ZERO!

In any event it is not too late to take the WFP 5-question Hunger quizz!  [WFP3] called Test your hunger IQ and feed a child!  ***For every person who takes the WFP quizz on hunger, a child will receive a warm meal thanks to an anonymous donor to WFP! ***

Nor is it too late to learn about hunger by clicking on the tabs next to Quizz box [WFP3], or reading the hyperlinked primer below.

- What is hunger? An Insufficient amount of kilocalories to promote normal development and a healthy life. The average need per person, per day, is estimated at more than 2100 Kcal. [WFP 5]
- Who are hungry? 805 million people in South East Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and in developed countries [WFP6]
- What are the causes of hunger? Poverty, war and displacement, insufficient investment in agriculture, climate and weather, unstable markets and food waste. [WFP7]
- What are the stats? Hunger kills more people that TB, Malaria and AIDS combined. Tweet 10 more facts to your friends. [WFP8]
- What does the world hunger map look like? [WFP4 - English version]
- What can be done to prevent world hunger? School meals, Food for assets, feed HIV/AIDS patients, Purchase for Progress (P4P), focus on women. [WFP9]

The WFP is currently responding to five ER crises in the world: 1. CAR – the Central African Republic, undergoing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis within the context of civil war and a collapsed economy; 2. the Ebola crisis in neighboring West Africa (in particular Liberia Sierra Leone and Guinea) assisting with  the logistics of supplies in addition to supplying food; 3. Iraq for about 100,000 people fleeing violence to the area around the Sinjar Mountains; 4. South Sudan also submerged in civil strife with more than 750,000 people displaced, and; 5. Syria also living in civil strife for the past three years and facing the consequences of severe drought.  [WFP2]
Mark your calendars for October 16, every year, till the hunger counter displays zero! ...

World food Program
WFP2 – Five hunger emergencies.
WFP3 – Test your hunger IQ – Feed a Child
WFP5 – What is hunger
WFP6 - Who are the hungry
WFP7 - What causes hunger?
WFP8 - Statistcs
WFP9 – Preventing hunger
WFP4 - Hunger Map (English version)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola pandemic 2014 @ Week 41

Copyright  Françoise Herrmann

**Maybe, it’s time to start thinking about evacuating those people still healthy and willing to leave from the uncontrolled Ebola infected areas, in Sierra Leone, Liberia and  Guinea. I know this is what I would like rescue efforts to do for me and my family, if  it were our situation.. 

 On August 20th, 2014, I posted figures of the death toll from the Ebola virus culled from the WHO (World Health Organization) website. There were a total of 1267 reported deaths and 2617 cases reported.

Today, October 16, 2014 (almost two months later), WHO reports 4493 deaths and a total of total of 8897 confirmed, probable and suspected infections [WHO 1]. That is a fourfold increase in deaths, and a similar increase in infections.

At this uncontrolled rate alone, the number of deaths in December 2014 will be 20,000 people, and the number of infected people 350000 (and these are far from science-based epidemiological calculations))

This is no longer an outbreak or even an epidemic. With deaths and infections in 7 countries (Sierra Leon, Liberia, Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria, Spain and the US), this is already a pandemic.


A panel of speakers, back from the field in Sierra Leon and Liberia, reported the following, extracted from my notes. The panel included: Dr. P. Farmer (Partners in Health; Brigham and Harvard U.), Dr. Raj Panjabi ( in Liberia, Brigham and Harvard U.), Dr. Dan Kelly ( non Profit in Sierra Leone and UCSF), Ambassador Dr. Eric. O. Goosby (UCSF, and US Global Fund HIV/TB/Malaria) and interviewer Roy Eisenhardt (Interviewer for City Arts and Lectures and the Commonwealth Club):

- 10 years of civil war in Liberia left the country with no infrastructure for public health, and just  41 physicians, 4 of whom died this year in the Ebola epidemic. This amounts to 8 physicians for a city like San Francisco.

- The first case of Ebola was reported in February 2014 when it had already crossed borders from Liberia to Nigeria.

- The estimated toll is 1.4 million by January 2015 if there is no control. Figures are based on known cases, multiplied by 2.5 for all the unknown cases. The ability to find the cases, to treat in isolation, and to take appropriate measures to sanitize, will determine the capacity to control the spread** But finding the sick is contingent upon restoring hope in the medical response, which so far offers no cure rate. And protection measures are inadequate because not enough is known about how the virus spreads from human to human or even from objects contaminated by humans (such as clothes or taxi seats…).

- Stopping the Ebola pandemic implies setting up a long term healthcare system in addition to the ER response with US Troops and 17 MASH units. A long term healthcare system able to prevent any future epidemics or outbreaks.

- Setting up a healthcare system in low income, deprived and underserved places like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, for example, subsumes having: 1 community worker per village, supervised by 1 nurse at a local dispensary, in communication with a regional hospital or healthcare center, with capacity for transportation of patients with ambulances or vehicles, or planes etc.. This is a model system set up in Haiti that works for low income settings. The system has to involve/mobilize the country in their own destiny. With sufficient funds the system also should have its own teaching hospitals to train local medical personnel. This is now the case in Haiti, and Haiti is sending many volunteer healthcare workers to West Africa. (Cheers to Haiti!)

- Most importantly, the medical response has to restore hope, as it is currently unable to offer care. So the population refuses to go to the ER health centers or isolation wards to die.

- Major players are the UN, WHO and CDCs, already on location.

- The bottom line, however, is that the medical response has to deliver a cure rate, instead of a 90% death rate. This is possible according to Dr. P. Farmer. The virus is not invincible. Care cannot only be palliative. It has to be curative too.

Sorry the news is not any better… Indeed there are not even any IV supplies or beds out there… never mind patented ....
But perhaps there is hope is airlifting everyone who is still healthy to safety, to stop the spread, reduce the burden of care on site.  ... I have two spare rooms in my house and I would truly welcome a family from Liberia or Sierra Leone… before the worse scenarios play out, and until they can return to their beloved country. 

Farmer, P. Dr. Partners in Health
Kelly,  D. Dr. Well Body Alliance
Panjabi, R. Dr. Last Mile Health
WHO1 WHO: Ebola response roadmap situation report – Oct 15, 2014.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oh, patents! – OAPI No. 16213 The Cardiopad

Copyright © Françoise Herrrmann

If you had grown up in a remote village in Cameroon, in a family with heart disease, are 26 years old and a brilliant computer scientist, who learnt electronic engineering via free, online, distance learning, delivered by India’s Institute of Technology, and you “think of other people and how to solve their problems”, then you might have come up with an invention like the touch screen Cardiopad! [WIPO, 2014]. 

Of course ,you would also have to be Arthur Marc Zang Adzaba, the young African inventor hailing from Cameroon, who has probably also jump-started a viable way of bringing affordable cardiology to the poorest and most destitute areas of the world. And who dreams of bringing radiology and sonogram technology for additional medical specialty care, in a similar way, to remote and underserved populations in Cameroon, and to all of Africa.

This invention was developed in three steps. First, software had to be programmed for an EKG exam using electrodes connected to the touchscreen pad and a wireless Bluetooth enabled connection to a mobile network to send the digitized heart signal data that is collected and recorded. Secondly, the touchscreen hardware had to be designed to package the program for the exam, for viewing, storing, sending, receiving and analyzing the digitized heart data. And finally, crowd-sourced Venture Capital through social media had to be obtained to produce and market the device [(1) VC4Africa], with others "who share a vision”to help improve people’s lives”. 

In a country like Cameroon where there are about 40 cardiologists for a population of 22 million, and all of the cardiologists are located in the two large urban cities of Yaoundé and Douala, this makes access to specialists next to impossible and very expensive, in remote areas and villages. [OAPI, BOPI 2014]. 

The Cardiopad resolves this issue as it brings cardiology to the villages, where a patient’s heart activity can be recorded and sent directly via mobile network to the cardiologist, who in turn reads the EKG in order to diagnose and deliver care. It is also possible, via the availability of mobile digitized heart data, to send EKG data to Europe in view of scheduling additional surgical assistance for the hundreds of heart patients that become concentrated in the urban center hospitals. (Voice of Amerca, 2014). 

Perhaps best of all, the Cardiopad is also produced in Africa, which adds economic benefit to improved healthcare. Reliability of the digitized heart data was initially estimated as high as 97.5%. The device is currently undergoing clinical testing in Cameroon [Voice of America, 2014). 

The abstract of this invention, as published in the OAPI BOPI official newsletter, appears in French [OAPI, 2014]. Below a patent drawing and a marketed device are both included.


OAPI (2014) BOPI 12DR/2014, p. 31. – Oct. 3, 2014., E. (2014) Cardiopad: Reaching the Hearts of rural communities in Africa. WIPO Magazine, Sept. 2014. Kindzeka, E.M. (2014) Young inventor’s Cardiopad undergoing trials in Cameron, Voice of America 07-10-2014 Nsehe, M. (2012) Young African invent touch screen medical tablet., Feb. 9, 2012

Oh, patents! OAPI - Rising IP star in French-speaking Africa

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
The OAPI, (pronounced as an acronym "ooapi" meaning in French, Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle, or in English AIPO – African Intellectual Property Organization [OAPI (1)], was created according to the provisions of the Bangui Agreement, ratified in the Central African Republic, in 1977 [OAPI (2)] . 
The OAPI (AIPO) currently regroups 17 members states from Central and French-speaking Africa, including: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoro Islands, Congo, the Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Togo.  
Headquarters of the OAPI (AIPO) are located in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and there are National Liaison Offices for the OAPI in each of the member countries [OAPI (3)], acting both as National offices and central agencies, providing information, training and a location for filing applications. The OAPI (AIPO), like its counterparts in Europe (EPO) and at the United Nations (WIPO), offers a central agency for information, training, filing and examination of applications. Fees are paid a single time for protection in all member states. The OAPI (AIPO) also offers a graduate level Masters program in Intellectual Property. A new logo for the OAPI (AIPO) was unveiled in Sept 2014 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (see image included above).

The bibliographic data sheets of patents granted by the OAPI (AIPO) are published in the official OAPI newsletter Bulletin Officiel de la Propriété Intellectuelle (BOPI). The latest issue of the OAPI BOPI, No. 12R/2013, dated October 3, 2014, published 44 bibliographic data sheets for recently granted OAPI (AIPO) patents. There are a total of 16215 patents granted by the OAPI (AIPO).

NB. The AIPO (OAPI) should not be confused with the ARIPO – the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization, headquartered in Harare, Zimbawe, which regroups 19 English-speaking African countries, including: Botswana, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, São Tomé and Principe, Somalia, Sudan, Swazilan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbawe. The ARIPO was created in 1976 according to the provisions of the Lusaka Agreement, ratified in Zambia.


OAPI (1) Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle OAPI (2) Accord de Bangui (3) BOPI – Bulletin Officiel de la Propriété Intellectuelle, 12BR/2013, p. 8. – African Regional Intellectual Property Organization

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

International Translation Day 2014

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Oopse… that was yesterday, on September 30, 2014, the Feast of Saint Jerome, according to the Saints’ Days of the Gregorian calendar. 

Saint Jerome was the first to translate the Old Testament of the Bible from Ancient Hebrew to Latin, in the year 405 AC, at a time where translations of the bible existed only from Greek (translated from Hebrew) to Latin. Thus, it is in his capacity as first translator of the bible that Saint Jerome is considered the Patron Saint of Translators, in a Christian calendar tradition that assigns patron saints to just about every profession. For example, Saint Nicholas (December 25) is Patron Saint of bakers, Saint Francis (October 4) is Patron Saint of ecologists, Saint Matthew (September 21) is Patron Saint of bankers, accountants and stockbrokers, Saint Lucy (December 13) is Patron Saint of writers and electricians (!), and so forth for every day of the Gregorian calendar, commonly used in the Western world.

International Translation Day was launched by the IFT - International Federation of Translators, a European-based organization founded in 1953 that regroups more than 100 professional associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists worldwide, including the American Translators Association. The IFT thus represents more than 80,000 translators in 55 countries. 

Each year the IFT selects a theme for International Translation Day. The 2014 theme was “Language rights: essential to all human rights”. Indeed this is the idea that Human Rights to dignity, freedom, justice, health and peace for all human beings, as set forth in the provisions of the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, are contingent upon effective communication. In other words, it is impossible to uphold and defend human rights without the ability to communicate in a language that is mutually understandable. Take the case, for example, of immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees, tourists or foreign workers, who lose their linguistic rights in courts, hospitals or government offices when they are unable to defend themselves, or express themselves or explain their situation in the language into which they are thrown. 

The IFT thus calls for a greater awareness of the need for professional linguistic services, to avoid the tragedies of injustice, imprisonment and irreversible damages to health arising in those situations where people cannot express or defend themselves in a language that is mutually understandable.

Mark your calendars for International Translation Day on September 30, 2015 with another theme. And in the interim, spread the word! 

International Federation of Translators

October 1, 2014 - World Vegetarian Day

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

And food for thought ...

Joy, M. (2010) Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows: An introduction to Carnism. The belief system that enables us to eat some animals and not others. San Francisco, CA : Conari Press

Safran Foer, J. (2009) Eating animals. New York, NY: Little, Brown & Co.

Singer, P. (1975) Animal Liberation: A new ethics for our treatment of animals. New York, NY: The Hearst Corporation.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Patents for Humanity 2013 – Identifying counterfeit drugs

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

It is controversial enough that patented and life-saving drugs are often unavailable for treatment in Third World countries, for reasons ranging from costs and licensing fees [Chneiweiss, 2003] to distribution bottlenecks [Esmail, et al., 2010] and drug development protocols [WHO3, 2014]. But there are other problems plaguing the delivery of drugs to places like Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia. One such problem is the Black Market of counterfeit drugs and health-related products [WHO2, 2006; WHO4]. A market estimated (with obvious difficulty) to operate, per year, at various significant amounts, in the billions of dollars, according to different sources (e.g.; 32 billion USD per year in 2011 with a 5-year projected amount of 62 billion USD [Global HealthCare, 2011], or at an estimated 75 billion USD in 2014 according to the WHO [WHO5]). Also a market responsible for the deaths of many thousands of people per year [WHO5].

There are no less than 131 WHO (World Health Organization) Drug Alerts for known falsified or contaminated pharmaceutical products, such as for example:  antimalarial drugs with less than 2% of the active ingredient; emergency contraceptives with no active ingredient; cough syrup with a contaminated active ingredient causing the death of at least 50 people; tainted anti-angina heart medicine also causing deaths, and tainted anti-meningitis medication in 1995 causing 2500 deaths in Nigeria [WHO1].

In response to the dangers and toll of counterfeit drugs, Sproxil, Inc. developed a simple to use, text message and mobile phone-based technology to uncover counterfeit medicine, in direct communication with the pharmaceutical industry or third party data processing centers.

This technology, invented by Gogo Ashifi and Zecha Alden, was awarded the patent US13081882 titled SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR VERIFYING AUTHENTICITY OF A PRODUCT and was also selected in 2013 as recipient of a USPTO Patent for Humanity Award.
The invention discloses patented tamper-evident packaging with a unique identifier, located within or as part of the tamper-evident packaging. The identifier is additionally sensitive to environmental conditions. This bonus part of the invention means, for example, that if the product is sensitive to heat, then the identifier will also signal exposure to heat, at the level or length of time deemed detrimental to the product, using calibrated and heat-sensitive ink. In other words, environmental conditions are included in the definition of tampering, and there is no intervention required on the part of the end-user to determine whether the product is damaged.
Thus, to determine the authenticity of a product,  the end-user just sends the product code (with a few more visible digits considering heat reactions, whenever this applies) via text-message and receives an instantaneous response to indicate the validity of the product or other information such as “recalled”, “used” “stolen” or “diverted” etc., that may be tagged to the unique code.

Below appears the abstract for US13081882, titled SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR VERIFYING AUTHENTICITY OF A PRODUCT:
Various aspects of the invention provide systems and method for verifying authenticity of a product. Another aspect of the invention provides a system including: a tamper-evident package; and a unique identifier usable to verify the authenticity of the product, the unique identifier contained within the tamper-evident package. The unique identifier cannot be detected from outside of the tamper-evident package without demonstrating evidence of tampering. Another aspect of the invention provides a system including: a tamper-evident package; and a concealed unique identifier coupled to the tamper-evident package. Another aspect of the invention provides a method of providing a providing a unique identifier. The method includes: providing a tamper-evident package; and placing the unique identifier within the tamper-evident package, wherein the unique identifier cannot be detected from outside of the tamper-evident package. [Abstract US13081882] 

Although this invention was designed to address the problem of counterfeit drugs in the Third World where it is endemic, and the invention was the recipient of a 2013 USPTO Humanitarian Award, the scope of the invention is clearly much broader. Indeed, the invention has broader and disclosed applications to other counterfeit consumer products that are packaged or labeled, such as electronic media, foodstuff, luxury goods, cosmetics..etc.  And this invention also has a broader client (or patient) base than the recognized Third World parties, since the United States is also plagued with counterfeit medicine, albeit at an estimated lesser degree than the Third World [FDA1]. 
Chneiweiss, H. (2003) Sur les rivages de la misère : Épisode 1 : Le marché des médicaments essentiels. M/S – Médecine Sciences,  vol 19(8&9), pp. 892-894.
Esmail, L. C., Phillips, K., Kuek, V., Perez Cosio, A.  and J. C. Kohler  (2010) Framing access to medicines in developing countries: An analysis of media coverage of Canada’s Access to Medicine Regime, BMC International Human Rights, 10(1).
[FDA1] – Counterfeit Medicine
[Global Healthcare] – 2011 The financial pull of counterfeit drugs
[WHO2]  (2006) - Combating counterfeit drugs: A concept paper for effective international cooperation.  
[WHO3] – Ethical considerations for the use of unregistered interventions for Ebola Virus disease
[WHO4] – General information on counterfeit medicine
[WHO5] Growing threat from counterfeit medicines

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Patents for Humanity – USPTO Awards Program

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The USPTO call for submissions to the Patents for Humanity program is extended to October 31, 2014. 

This competitive program, organized by the USPTO (United States Patent and TradeMark Office), is designed to recognize patent owners, assignees and applicants, whether businesses, non-profits or universities, who have contributed a patented invention for humanitarian purposes. In particular, this means an invention that is designed to help underserved populations of the world and/or uses technology to solve major global problems, in five categories: medicine, nutrition, sanitation, household energy and living standards. 

The program's 10 awards and 6 honorable mentions reward the selected winners with public recognition at a USPTO sponsored awards ceremony and acceleration of certain USPTO processes related to a patent application, such as the application process, ex parte reexam, or an ex parte appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

The program was piloted in 2012 as part of President Obama’s Global Development Initiative, “encouraging game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges” and the program was renewed in February 2014 (USPTO Press Release, 2014). 

The 2013 Patents for Humanity awards included such recipients as:
  • UC Berkeley (UCB) for ways of producing lower cost and more reliable anti-malarial compounds; 
  • Becton Dickinson (BD) for creating a fast, accurate TB diagnosis machine and placing 300 systems in 22 High Burden Countries, and
  • Sproxil, Inc., for deploying a system to identify counterfeit drugs with an ordinary cell phone in sub-Saharan Africa (Patents for humanity, 2013).
The USPTO screened and accepted list of contending entries for this year’s 2014 Patents for humanity awards is displayed in a public gallery at:

Among the 2014 contending inventions, there are four such viewable applications:
  •  Device to prevent hypothermia in pre-term babies in low resource setting - The device is called the IncuPouch™, the inventor is Prasanga Lokuge, and the entry concerns the humanitarian use of technology described in US 20120234877 A1 titled Infant carrier and US 20080149674 A1 titled Infant Carrier.
  • Cardiopulmonary lightening protection garment – a garment made of conductive fabric that prevents lightening from passing through the body and causing cardiopulmonary arrest. The company is Zoltar Technology, the inventor is Dan Schlager, and technology used for humanitarian purposes is described in US 20130298319 A1 titled Cardiopulmonary lightening protection garment
  • Portable neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) – a unit with reduced electrical power requirements that provides both heat, or cooling, for the infant patient, using water circulating through a heat exchanger. The company is called Designs for the world, LLC, the devices are called the Tokü™ incubators and the technology used for humanitarian purposes is described in US 20100168502 A1 titled Modular neonatal intensive care system.
  • Disaster Emergency Assessment Notification (DEAN) – A mobile app designed to track people in an emergency situation using QR codes. (Blaster Communications Inc.) 

Considering the 45-day extension period for filing entries, there is still time to compete! Here is the link for submitting application forms: 

- Press release: USPTO renews Patents for Humanity Program
- Patents for humanity 2013 Award recipients