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UCT’s Intellectual Property Unit strives to add an African voice to the global debate on IP-related issues. Our focus is on examining the link between IP, innovation, development and public policy, taking into account the needs of society, rights owners and consumers. Our vision is to be a leading voice in realising a continent where there is an open exchange about African ideas, creativity and innovation, in pursuit of sustainable development. We promote research, teaching, and learning in IP through holistic, balanced and open approaches, in order to stimulate innovation that drives development. Our core values are integrity, inclusiveness and relevance. We believe that South Africa has a leadership role in defining IP challenges in emerging and developing countries. We develop our programs through dialogue, research, debate and capacity building.

IP Unit co-hosts Professor Ruth Okediji’s seminar on Why Decolonisation of IP Matters

image3On 8 August, the IP Unit had the immense pleasure of welcoming highly acclaimed Harvard Professor Ruth Okediji – Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center – for a seminar on why the decolonisation of intellectual property matters. The seminar at UCT was co-hosted by the IP Unit, the South African Research Chair in Intellectual Property, Innovation and Development, Recreate South Africa and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) at American University in Washington, DC. The well-attended event was opened by the law faculty’s dean Professor Danwood Chirwa, and Professor Okediji’s talk was preceded by remarks from PIJIP’s Professor Sean Flynn. A brief write-up about the event can be found on the SARChI chair’s website, and a video of the proceedings is available here.

Intellectual Property and Innovation for National Development: Lessons from South Africa

By Dr. Desmond Oriakhogba

Afronomics pixPhase 2 negotiations towards the objectives of the AfCFTA, which will include Intellectual property (IP) rights, will afford “an opportunity for Africa to craft a new path for knowledge governance” and “redefine the agenda for negotiation of IP issues” in future trade agreements. However, as African countries go into the negotiations, it is important for them to first clarify their respective “fundamental priorities for IP” and development (Ncube, et al). To do so, African countries will require a well-articulated IP policy based on their individual national development objectives. Such policy should articulate goals and strategies that will enable them to harness the gains of IP and innovation for their respective development in the fast-growing, technology-driven, global economy.

In an article for AfronomicsLAW, UCT’s IP-Units Dr Desmond Oriakhogba briefly highlights some key policy and legal steps South Africa has adopted to take advantage of the gains of IP and innovation for its national development. the article also draws lessons from South Africa’s experience that IP negotiations in the AfCFTA can benefit from.

Report: International Conference on Intellectual Property and Development – How to Benefit from the IP System

By Charlene Musiza

Screen Shot 2019-05-17 at 14.46.03On 20 May 2019, the second International Conference on Intellectual Property (IP) and Development was held at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland. A diverse crowd from industry, academia, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and students attended the event and some participated via the webcast. The panels, comprising of experts, discussed various topics in relation to IP and development. Discussion in the panels are summarised below.

How the IP System Benefits Innovation

The first panel, made up of Dr. Fernanda de Negri, Professor Marzenna Weresa and Professor Dominique Foray, discussed how the IP system benefits innovation. Dr. Negri spoke about some factors and conditions for innovation, and gave a historical perspective, and the empirical literature on IP and innovation that highlighted the important of patents for pharmaceutical and chemical innovations. According to Dr. Negri patent systems have an important and a positive influence on innovation in home countries. She stated that IP rights had positive effects on innovation in developed countries but the results for developing countries were not so clear. On the other hand, according to her, innovation required a broad sector of conditions, for example qualified people to innovate, infrastructure and good economic environment. Continue reading

Empowering Rural Craft Women Through Social Entrepreneurship and Open Inclusive Innovation

My Engagement with the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

As part of my on-going project as a Queen Elizabeth Scholar (QEScholar) with Open AIR, I have spent the past three months on a research placement with the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust (HACT). This placement has significantly reshaped the focus of my research, investigating the economically empowering and impactful work being undertaken by the HACT for poor, rural Zulu women artisans.

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The 38th Session of WIPO-SCCR and South African Copyright Reform

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Ville Oksanen, CC BY-SA 2.0

By Desmond O. Oriakhogba


The 38th session of the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (WIPO-SCCR) recently took place from 1 to 5 April 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. As gleaned from its agenda, the session was convened to continue the negotiations among WIPO member states towards formulating an international normative instrument for copyright limitations and exceptions (L&Es), that goes beyond the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (Marrakesh VIP Treaty). Thus, the session placed particular attention on L&Es for persons with disabilities (other than blind, visually impaired and print disabilities), libraries, archives and museums; for educational and research institutions. Continue reading

Upcoming International Conference on Intellectual Property and Development

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On 20 May 2019 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will host the second International Conference on Intellectual Property (IP) and Development. The theme for this year’s edition is ‘How to Benefit from the IP System’. The conference offers a platform to share knowledge and experience on IP and development. It draws speakers with expertise in different areas of IP from industry, government and academia. The issues to be discussed include how the IP system benefits innovation, creativity and global issues and the challenges and opportunities of the IP system in the world today. These topics will be discussed in four panels moderated by deputy and assistant directors of the different sectors at WIPO. The Keynote Speaker is H.E. Ms. Amina C. Mohamed, the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage in Kenya. Registration for the international conference is available here and a live webcast will be available for those who cannot attend the conference in person.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Intellectual Property Law

Picture1The Intellectual Property Unit (IP Unit) at the Department of Commercial Law, University of Cape Town invites applications for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the area of Intellectual Property Law. The selected fellow will become part of a new project: One Ocean Hub.

Scope and Purpose

This fellowship is intended to support the One Ocean Hub project by contributing towards the understanding of various intellectual property aspects related to the ocean exploration, exploitation and management. Continue reading

South Africa Creators, Access Advocates Rally To Support Copyright Bill And Dispel Myths

by William New – first published for under Creative Commons Attribution-4.0 International License.

A broad coalition of creators and access to knowledge advocates have petitioned the President of South Africa to urgently sign the Copyright Amendment Bill before him. The petition ( is endorsed by organizations representing over half a million South African creators, teachers, people with disabilities and others who rely on copyright access and protection. It calls for the President to sign the Bill “without delay,” including to enact into copyright law “a transformative vision for a more equal and just society.” The petition is the latest step in a decades long campaign to enact development- focused copyright reform that is sensitive to South Africa’s particular social and economic context.

Decolonizing Copyright

At issue is the 44-page Copyright Amendment Bill (as at Feb 2019) (before National Council of Provinces).

South Africa has spent over a decade in a sometimes arduous process of developing a Bill to improve and update its national copyright law to help local creators benefit from their works and encourage access to works to spark creativity and serve public interests. The original aim of the process was to address the situation in which famous South African artists “die as paupers” because publishers, labels and other intermediaries are able to extract most of the rent from uses of their works without paying creators adequately.

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The Video Assistant Referee (VAR): The Patent-Protected Technology Changing the Face of Football

IPday2019-FB-banner-Eby Clarence Lakpini

It is that day of the year again! The World Intellectual Property (IP) day is being celebrated the world over.  According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the theme of this year’s celebration is “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports.” We are excited about this year’s theme as it affords us the opportunity to reflect on the role of IP for the development of sports, especially the game of football. IP generally deals with “creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; symbols, names, and images used in commerce.” There are several types of IP that impact on the sporting world, among which are: copyright, trademarks, patents, designs, broadcasting rights and trade secrets. A healthy and fair balance between incentivising innovation and enabling access to its fruits is what IP ultimately seeks to achieve. This short blog post examines how IP, through patents, has impacted the game of football. The specific focus will be on the effect of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology, introduced during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, on the traditional footballing practices.

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IP Unit is looking for student research assistants as of 1 April 2019

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.36.20 PMThe IP Unit is looking for outstanding LL.B. and LL.M. students to join our team as student research assistants for 6 months, beginning 1 April 2019. Student research assistant duties will span the scholarly spectrum and can include: conducting literature reviews; creating surveys and other tools; collecting, managing and analysing data; cowriting peer reviewed articles and media materials; co-presenting findings; and managing the activities of a unit within a broader organisational structure. Student research assistants will also be encouraged and supported to conduct their own original research, under the direction and mentorship of academics based at UCT and/or other participating faculty, and could receive authorial or co-authorial credit. These activities will build academic skills like research methods, theory building, and scholarly publishing. Student research assistants will also have administrative duties within Open AIR in order to help build highly transferable professional skills such as leadership and teamwork, project management, and community engagement. Student research assistants are expected to work in the IP Unit shared office space for up to 35 hours per month at an hourly rate of R95.

If you are interested in applying for this opportunity, please provide – via email to Open AIR Project Manager Nan Warner on – a curriculum vitae, copies of your qualification certificates and a covering letter outlining your qualifications/experience and how they would support our work. The deadline for applications is 28 February 2019. The full advertisement can be found here.

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