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.

Keeping up with international approaches: SA copyright limitations and exceptions for educational activities

charleneby Charlene Musiza

The 35th session of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) took place at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) at the end of last year. Comprising of all members of WIPO, the SCCR analyses matters relating to the substantive law or harmonisation of copyright and related rights, and formulates recommendations.  Current issues the SCCR is addressing include the protection of broadcasts and broadcasting organisations as well as copyright limitations and exceptions. With regard to limitations and exceptions the focus is now on three areas: educational activities, libraries and archives and disabled persons.

At the 35th session of the SCCR, UCT’s Professor Caroline Ncube presented, together with Professor Blake Reid from the University of Colorado, an important scoping study concerning access to copyrighted works by persons with disabilities.

Furthermore, a report titled “Updated Study and Additional Analysis of Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Educational Activities” by Professor Daniel Seng was presented that provides an analysis of the existing educational copyright limitations and exceptions in the copyright laws of WIPO member states. Against the background of South Africa’s current efforts to modernise its copyright legislation, one important aspect in the report concerns limitations and exceptions that enable the use of adaptations and translations for educational activities.

As regards exceptions and limitations facilitating adaptations and translations for educational activities, Professor Seng’s SCCR report distinguishes three approaches in existing copyright laws around the world:

  • “adaptation or translation” formulations,
  • “source work” formulations, and
  • “use” formulations.

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IP Unit – a poem

by Desmond Oriakhogba

The IP Unit
Sits on UCT Kramer Loft
As a Pulpit
Where diverse brains
Preach Afro IP

The sermon is simple:
Open access;
Open Knowledge;
Knowledge sharing
For Afro development

The Head: a ‘German Afro’
The body: a mix of races,
Different ages and faces
All deep in IP mine
Quarrying together
Hand in hand
Offering each a shoulder
In filial affinity

Though in a loft
The IP Unit is no Hermit:
He flows in Open AIR
And ASK Justice
With Afro, White and Coloured brains.
He speaks in his Gown
And shakes hands with Town

The end is simple:
Open access;
Open Knowledge;
Knowledge sharing
For Afro development

CopyrightX:UCT applications now open

copyxThe IP Unit is pleased to again present a CopyrightX affiliated course in 2018. CopyrightX:UCT will be administered by UCT Law@Work: Professional Development Project of the Faculty of Law, UCT.

CopyrightX:UCT is a member of the growing CopyrightX Community, a network of affiliated courses offered by several universities and other institutions between January and April of each year. Participants in these courses examine and assess the ways in which law seeks to stimulate and regulate creative expression. CopyrightX was developed by Professor William Fisher at Harvard Law School; it is hosted and supported by the HarvardX distance-learning initiative and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. A list of the other participating organisations and additional information concerning this educational initiative is available at http://copyx.org

CopyrightX:UCT consists of the Harvard pre-recorded lectures, accompanied by reading materials relating to U.S. and South African copyright law. Eight contact sessions will take place on Wednesdays between 21 February 2018 and 2 May 2018. The classroom seminars will discuss the pre-recorded lectures and will more closely analyse South African Copyright law and the issues faced. In 2018, we are planning to simultaneously deliver lectures online as webinars. Those who cannot attend the contact sessions in person, but want to participate in these webinars are invited to also registers, subject to confirmation of online content delivery in early 2018. The seminars will be taught by Dr. Tobias Schonwetter.

The course is free of charge. Applicants must provide a motivation of approximately 400 words stating why they want to participate in CopyrightX:UCT, and how they plan on utilising their knowledge afterwards. Furthermore, applicants must make a commitment to actively participate in the course and attend the weekly seminars at the University of Cape Town.

Applications are open between now and 26 January 2018.  Successful applicants will be notified by 31 January 2018.

For more info and to apply click here.

IP Unit submits its comments concerning the dti’s Draft IP Policy, Phase I

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.36.20 PM On 17 November 2017, the IP Unit submitted to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) its full set of comments on the Draft Intellectual Property Policy of the Republic of South Africa, Phase I, 2017. Some of our positive initial comments were reported in the media, e.g., here (Fin24) and here (Daily Maverick). The draft policy document was released in August and key aspects of it were summarised in an earlier post. In short, the draft policy is geared towards (i) advancing a balanced and coordinated approach to IP that regulates intellectual property rights in line with the South African Constitution; (ii) introducing key policy reforms that account for the development dynamics of South Africa; (iii) promoting innovation and a knowledge economy; and (iv) leveraging competitive and comparative advantages to advance the transformation of the South African economy. To this end, the draft policy proposes a number of key reforms, including the introduction of substantive search and examination system for patents; the leveraging of flexibilities contained in the TRIPS Agreement; the protection of “utility models”; and the creation of a system for protection for traditional knowledge which will safeguard misappropriation and exploitation.

In our comments, we commend the DTI’s drafting team on creating a well-considered document. We also express our strong support for the policymaker’s intention to link this policy to broader domestic imperatives and strategies — such as the National Development Plan and its emphasis on embracing the knowledge economy — and welcome that Constitutional and Human Rights dimensions of many of the issues raised in the policy document are considered. We submit that by adopting a balanced, coordinated and development- and public interest-oriented approach the policy maker has created a policy document that is context-specific and which addresses current tensions and inequalities, including those between IP owners on the one hand and users seeking equitable access to IP-protected goods on the other.

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ATRIP 2017: The Object and Purpose of Intellectual Property

DM3eOLuUQAEpK1a.jpg_largeWhat is the purpose of intellectual property (IP) and who do the laws serve? This question underpinned this year’s International Association for the Advancement of Teaching and Research in Intellectual Property (ATRIP) Congress held from 24 to 27 October 2017 at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The answers to this question appear to be quite dynamic. Concepts such as creativity and innovation, which are at the core of IP, constantly change, while the underlying justifications for IP protection continually need to be scrutinised, re-assessed and re-evaluated. Many other factors, such as policy considerations and complexities in the interaction between IP and new technologies further influence the answers to this question. Continue reading

A2K4D Annual Workshop: Collaborative Innovation for Open and Inclusive Development


On 15 and 16 October 2017, the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) at the American University in Cairo held its annual workshop. The Center is the North African hub of the Open African Innovation Research (Open AIR) project. This year’s workshop explored collaborative innovation for open and inclusive development with particular focus on data, maker spaces, and mobile telephony. The event brought together researchers from around the world, including several Open AIR New and Emerging Researchers Group (NERG) members. The workshop was preceded by site visits at two local Fab Labs: Fab Lab New Cairo (FLiNC) and Fab Lab Egypt. These visits highlighted some notable differences between South African Fab Labs on the one hand and Fab Labs in Egypt on the other. For instance, the Egyptian Labs are largely independent and operate without any government support, while most South African Fab Labs are either government or institution based.

On day two of the workshop, Bram Van Wiele, a UCT PhD candidate and researcher in the IP Unit participated – together with Open AIR NERG members Victor Nzomo (Strathmore) and Mohamed Galaleldin (uOttawa) as well as Tania Bryant from the I MAKE foundation in South Africa –  in a panel addressing the seminal role of maker spaces in generating employment and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. Bram presented on initial findings of one of Open AIR’s current case studies: “3D Printing: Enabler of Social Entrepreneurship in Africa? The Role of Low Cost Printers and Fab Labs”. During the subsequent panel discussion, the panellist shared experiences from their research on how makerspaces can become sustainable and inclusive environments that contribute to business generation.

Other issues discussed at the A2K4D workshop included the role of knowledge in our societies (and the role of mobile devices concerning current struggles over access to information, internet governance and privacy as well as a source of economic opportunities and possibilities) and open data for development in the Middle East and North Africa, with specific focus on data and digital technologies in the field of renewable energy and urban mobility.

As we celebrate Nigeria’s ratification of the WCT, WPPT, The Beijing Treaty and Marrakesh Treaty…

IMG_20160503_134857-1-1-1By Desmond Oriakhogba (PhD candidate and researcher in the IP Unit)

On 4 October 2017, Nigeria deposited during the 57th meeting of the WIPO general assembly in Geneva four ratification instruments concerning the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) of 1996, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) of 1996; the WIPO Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances of 2012 (Beijing Treaty); and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled of 2013 (Marrakesh Treaty) with the WIPO. The ratification instruments were signed by the President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria (President Muhammadu Buhari) on 24 August 2017. Consequently, Nigeria has now accepted and undertaken to respect and implement the obligations under these treaties. However, the treaties do not have any force of law within the Nigerian territory unless domesticated (s12 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999) either by an enforcement and domestication Act or by including its provisions in the Copyright Act, Cap C20, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 through an amendment. This piece argues that as we celebrate the ratification of the treaties, there is, however, a great need to pause and ponder on the effect of implementing ‘the standards stipulated in the treaties’ in Nigeria. What impact will the standards in the treaties have on creativity, innovation and access to information for educational purposes in Nigeria? Put broadly, what effect will they have on the knowledge economy and the overall development in Nigeria?

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Student Research Assistant position in the IP Unit

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.36.20 PMThe IP Unit is pleased to announce a call for applications for a part-time student research assistant position. We are involved in several domestic, regional and international research collaborations, such as Open AIR, and we now seek an LL.B. student to join our team as a research assistant until March 2018.

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; co-writing peer reviewed articles and briefing papers; contributing to reports and submissions; co-presenting findings; writing blog posts and other media materials; network building through technology and social media; and assist with reporting and monitoring and evaluation duties. The student research assistant will also be encouraged and supported to conduct his/her 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. The student research assistant will also have administrative duties in order to help build highly transferable professional skills such as leadership and teamwork, project management, and community engagement.

If you are interested in applying for this opportunity, please provide – via email to IP Unit Project Manager Nan Warner at nancy.warner@uct.ac.za – 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 30 October 2017. The full call for applications is available here.

Apply Now: Funding for Research on Gender and Innovation in Africa

Open-AIR-logo-on-White-StackedOpen AIR invites proposals for short-term research projects that address Open AIR’s research questions on African innovation through the lens of gender equality, empowerment of women and girls, and inclusion of marginalised communities. Researchers will conduct their projects while based at one or more of Open AIR’s institutional hubs in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Cairo, Lagos, Abuja, and Ottawa. Thanks to the generous funding of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars Program (QES-AS), Open AIR will be able to grow the network of new and emerging researchers more deeply exploring this important topic. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply immediately. Please download the Call for Applications for detailed instructions how to apply. Applications will be considered starting 30 October 2017 and then on a rolling basis until suitable candidates are identified.

Also, as part of Open AIR’s ongoing research into IP and gender, we have recently produced a new briefing note, “Integrating Gender Perspective into African Innovation Research”. The briefing note addresses the prevalent issue of both overt and latent gender inequality as it relates to STEM, ICT, entrepreneurship, and IP in African countries.



UCT IP Unit doctoral student presents at SA Innovation Summit 2017

innovation summitThis year’s SA Innovation Summit 2017 took place from 6 to 8 September in Cape Town at the Cape Town Stadium. It brought together academics, funders, founders, industrialists, entrepreneurs, inventors, business people and policy makers. The summit’s theme for 2017 was ‘Innovation Revolution’. It facilitated conversations on a wide range of topics, including BioTech, EduTech, AgriTech, Cities of the Future, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. The major aim of the summit was the creation of an enabling environment for entrepreneurs, promoting an inclusive and impactful platform that inspires meaningful change. The summit also looked at ways of accelerating innovations from idea to market.
One of the IP Unit’s doctoral students, Aleck Ncube, presented at the summit. The topic of his presentation was ‘Patent Information as a tool for Accelerating Innovation Development, in Developing Countries’. Choosing this topic came from his observation that the application of patent information to accelerate innovation and overall development in developing countries is an angle that needs to be vigorously pursued. In his view, developing countries must be active participants in legal and technical transfer of innovations, including through patent searching to identify technologies of interest, patent owners, and the territorial scope of patent rights. During his presentation at the SA Innovation Summit 2 he argued that access to information is a key driver for innovation and posited that patents are potentially a unique source of information, containing not only legal but also technical, business and potentially policy-related information. He concluded his presentation by stating that patent information, if made available properly, can facilitate the transformation of a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one.

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