The University of Cape Town’s Intellectual Property (IP) 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. We aim at creating a leading IP programme in Africa that translates cutting edge research into excellent teaching and increases the number of highly-skilled African IP experts. Important issues range from the way in which we access and share knowledge to strategies how to commercialise inventions and avoid misappropriation. IP is a key determinant of human development, economic growth and competitiveness; and IP rules impact on various public policy areas including health, research and development, bio-diversity, clean technologies, food security, and education.
Innovation is the primary driver for accelerated growth in any economy and most significantly in South Africa. Since 2012 Government’s focus is on the knowledge economy and by establishing the incentive for advancement in technology, art, culture, manufacturing and science, intellectual property (IP) remains central to our country’s sustained development. A sound understanding of IP law is imperative to succeed in any competitive environment and increasingly relevant to non-legal practitioners.
This certificate short course, jointly presented by the IP Unit and the Anton Mostert Chair of Intellectual Property Law (University of Stellenbosch), will offer a theoretical and practice-driven introduction to the law of patents, trademarks, copyright and designs. It aims to equip attendees with the skills required to manage their IP as well as demystify IP law. The course is aimed at everyone with an interest in IP regardless of prior knowledge in this varied field of law. The course is particularly relevant to those in business development, marketing, advertising, journalism, Government, science, engineering, commerce, performing arts, IT and paralegal services. This year’s course will be presented at the Wallenberg Conference Centre at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS) on the historic Mostertsdrift estate in the heart of Stellenbosch. More information about the course is available here.
To register for the course complete the registration form or contact:
Paula Allen +27 (0)21 650 5558 firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Blaauw +27 (0)21 650 5413
Irena Wasserfall +27 (0)21 650 5513
(by Eve Gray) The question of open access to research, teaching and learning resources in South Africa has for a long time been a somewhat paradoxical space in national and institutional policy. There has appeared to be sympathy for open access and OERs, and some government support evidenced, for example, in the Academy of Science’s partnership with SciELO for the creation of a national platform for OA journals, SciELO South Africa. At an institutional level, the number of OA institutional repositories has been growing, the University of Stellenbosch has added the creation of a lively and ambitious open journal publishing programme, and the country’s leading research university, the University of Cape Town in its Open Content Directory now takes a wide-ranging approach to the research and teaching and learning resources it hosts. What there has not been up until now is a coherent national policy framework with in-principle support for open content produced through public funds.
As a response to the restrictive policies of the Apartheid government, the right to access to information was enshrined in the South African Bill of Rights. The Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000 outlines the process through which citizens can request information held by public and private bodies. While important, the act is challenging and often creates an adversarial relationship between requestor and requestee. The Open Data movement, worldwide, and in South Africa seeks to change the relationship between government and society with regards to data.
Interested stakeholders, together with a select group of thought leaders and innovators, are invited by Code for South Africa, and Creative Commons South Africa to the first South African Open Data Unconference on 30 June and 1 July in Cape Town. Representatives from government, civil society, academia, funding organisations, the media, and the private sector will collaboratively set an agenda for action. Goals for the UnConference include:
- Identify a set of prioritised and shared results that can be achieved together over the next 2 years
- Map out the current contributions and innovations that organisations are making in this area, to identify potential ways to scale these up and coordinate efforts
- Engage other organisations and individuals who share a common interest in working together to plan, codevelop, resource and implement the environment required for open data in South Africa
- Explore how the partnership initiative can become an envoy for the larger community of policymakers; practitioners; civil society; media; academia; funders and information hackers who love to liberate data for good causes
- Establish a representative Open Data reference group that will take custodianship of this initiative
Creative Commons South Africa is based at the IP Unit. Please register for the event at http://opendatanow.code4sa.org/
Very recently, the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sentenced a man to a three-year suspended sentence and fined him R3,000 or a six-month suspended sentence for posting a copy of a local movie, Four Corners, on Pirate Bay.
A/Prof. Caroline Ncube eloquently discusses the case on Afro-IP, and Dr. Tobias Schonwetter, the IP Unit’s director, summarises his thoughts in the following CC-licensed article by Adam Oxford in htxt.africa:
“Today’s ruling that the first person to be convicted of online copyright infringement in South Africa must serve a three year jail sentence, fully suspended for five years, has been slammed as “draconian” by a leading academic in the field of intellectual property.
The court passed judgement on a man from the Cape Flats earlier today, who pleaded guilty to uploading a torrent link to The Pirate Bay and a digital file containing South African gangster movie Four Corners. The offender said that he was relieved with the verdict as it meant he could walk free from the court.
Dr Tobias Schonwetter, director of the Intellectual Property Unit at the University of Cape Town, says that he is “surprised by the harshness” of the sentence.
“On the face of it, the sentence of three years imprisonment fully suspended appears draconically harsh,” Schonwetter says, “And reminds me of the heavy punishments in other countries that have been widely criticised for not tackling the underlying reasons for online piracy; and for not achieving the objective of reducing piracy either. However, Mr Norton may actually prefer this sentence to being fined thousands of Rands.”
Schonwetter says that the final judgement may show a lack of understanding of the current entertainment market. Continue reading
The combined 3rd Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest and the Open AIR conference was hosted by our IP Unit in December 2013 and brought together IP issue leaders from around the world in Cape Town to discuss various issues under the theme Refining the positive agenda: Global questions, local answers? This theme emphasised the refrain against one-size-fits-all approaches for all aspects of IP policy, including “the public interest”. Many of the event’s presentations are now available online and can be accessed through the congress’ online programme. Moreover, more than two dozen video clips from the event can now be found here.
The first issue of South African Intellectual Property Law Journal (IPLJ) edited by the IP Unit’s Lee-Ann Tong and Prof. Caroline Ncube is now in print. The IPLJ strives to be the journal of choice for academics, practitioners and students of IP law. The IPLJ includes articles on recent developments in legislation, policy and case law to keep IP practitioners at the forefront of the law. The journal contains, among other things, articles, notes and updates, comments and book reviews. The IPLJ accepts submissions on an ongoing basis, however, the final submission date for the 2014 issue is 30 April 2014. Submissions and enquiries can be directed to the Editors at email@example.com . Guidelines for contributors are available here.
Two new publications in the area of knowledge, innovation and intellectual property in Africa were launched at the Global Congress & Open A.I.R. Conference, 9-13 December 2013, in Cape Town. Both publications are a result of the Open Air project, hosted by the IP Unit. The book Innovation & Intellectual Property: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa, based on case studies and evidence collected through research across nine countries in Africa, sheds new light on the complex relationships between innovation and intellectual property. It covers findings from Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa, across many sites of innovation and creativity including music, leather goods, textiles, cocoa, coffee, auto parts, traditional medicine, book publishing, biofuels and university research. Various forms of intellectual property protection are explored: copyrights, patents, trademarks, geographical indications and trade secrets, as well as traditional and informal mechanisms of knowledge governance. The picture emerging from the empirical research presented in this book is one in which innovators in diverse African settings share a common appreciation for collaboration and openness. The complementary report Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future grapples with the complex and dynamic forces shaping innovation systems over the next two decades. It distills three different but equally plausible future scenarios: one a world of “wireless engagement,” another where “informal is the new normal,” and a third that is “sincerely Africa.” Each scenario raises different issues for control and access to knowledge in Africa. Both the book and the report are available for download here.
[originally posted under CC-BY-NC-ND licence by William New on Intellectual Property Watch]
Academics, advocates, lawyers, government officials and others meeting this week have heard of the launch of several new books and research tools to better understand the relationship of intellectual property, development and social issues. In particular, discussion in the early part of the conference focussed on a book revealing evidence from extensive primary research on the ground in 13 countries across the continent. The Open African Innovation Research (Open A.I.R.) conference and the Global Congress on IP & the Public Interest is taking place in Cape Town from 9-13 December. The conference, now in its third year, is a who’s who of advocates in the access to knowledge and public health fields who are interested in intellectual property issues. But it increasingly is reaching beyond that perspective. Prof. Tobias Schonwetter, head of the IP Unit at the host University of Cape Town, opened the conference by saying the past two such meetings, in Washington, DC and Rio de Janeiro, had a big impact, and that this year, “I have no doubt that our voice will be heard again.” But he pointed to the need to overcome a “dichotomy” between the private and public sectors, which in fact are increasingly converging. He said he hoped this event would be the start of reaching out better. Schonwetter noted that in November at an industry-led IP conference in Durban, South Africa (IPW, Developing Country Policy, 25 November 2013), private sector did not respond to his remarks that IP needs to better consider social costs. He said people working on these issues need to do a better job of explaining. “Our value proposition to the private sector is somewhat blurry at this point,” said Schonwetter. He noted that the Open A.I.R. project is using Africa as a proxy for bigger issues that can apply anywhere. While industry does not appear to be in attendance among the hundreds of participants, there are many lawyers and academics, and the World Intellectual Property Organization is here, along with representatives from the African regional organisations, and national government officials. Two IP-related publications were launched this week. The publications may be accessed here. The newly arrived book called Innovation & Intellectual Property: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa, published by UCT Press, is a rare look at local practices related to IP in a variety of economic sectors in Africa. A second publication released was Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future, which was discussed on the second day.
From 9 – 13 December over 300 experts from around the world come to the University of Cape Town to explore local solutions to global questions about innovation, intellectual property (IP) and the public interest. The Open African Innovation Research (Open A.I.R.) Conference and Global Congress on IP & the Public Interest takes place at the Protea Breakwater Lodge, home of UCT’s Graduate School of Business and is proudly hosted by our Unit. Conference delegates are also celebrating the launch of two path-breaking publications: Innovation & Intellectual Property: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa, published by UCT Press, and its sister report, Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future. “This event comes at a crucial time when policymakers around the world acknowledge the need for more balanced and locally relevant IP laws that facilitate innovation and development, and respond appropriately to the challenges brought about by the digital age,” says Dr. Tobias Schonwetter, Director of the IP Unit. South Africa, for instance, recently published a draft National Policy on IP. That policy seeks to reconcile private interests in protecting IP with the public’s demand for opportunities to access intellectual goods such as educational material, medicines and indigenous knowledge. Professor Caroline Ncube, the IP Unit’s Associate Director, explains: “The conference reflects a growing spirit of South-South exchange, at both research and policy levels, on innovation and IP matters, as suggested by the large number of delegates coming from Latin America and Asia.” Confirmed speakers include Fernando dos Santos (Director General of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization), Marisella Ouma (Executive Director at the Kenya Copyright Board), Herman Ntchatcho (Senior Director, World Intellectual Property Organization), Michael Geist (University of Ottawa, Canada), Ruth Okediji (University of Minnesota, U.S.A.), Peter Drahos (Australian National University), Mark Heywood.
Interested parties can follow the proceedings via our hashtag #gcongress or on the conference website. Some live streaming will be available and we will share many of the presentations after the conference.
On 17 October 2013 the comment period for the Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property ended. According to DTI Minister Rob Davies, “[t]he majority of the comments are positive and are commending the South African Government in taking this major step in coordinating its efforts in the IP sphere both nationally and internationally”. UCT’s IP Unit, together with colleagues affiliated with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, also submitted comments to the Department of Trade and Industry (click here). In a media statement earlier this months, the DTI has announced that a conference on the policy will be held in November to address the main issues brought up during the public consultation process. Dates and venue will be communicated as soon as all logistical arrangements are finalised.
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