Author Archives: tobiasschonwetter

IP Unit submits comments regarding DST’s IKS Bill

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.37.42 PMOn 19 May 2015, the IP Unit, together with colleagues affiliated with Indiana University in the U.S. and Cape Town-based Natural Justice, submitted to the Department of Science and Technology comments (click here) regarding the Draft Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill. The Bill was summarised here.

Our approach is to engage with the Protection, Promotion, Development, and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill (“IKS Bill”) in a sympathetic and constructive yet critical manner. Our submission is structured as an outline document – it comments on a few provisions in the IKS Bill that are of particular importance and concern to indigenous communities. We do not attempt an exhaustive review of the IKS Bill but rather aim to highlight certain areas of concern. We hope this will generate a broader discussion into the contours of the IKS Bill as a whole. Among other things, we welcome the Bill’s intention to establish a sui generis approach for the protection of indigenous knowledge. This, in our view, is a positive change from alternative protections given to indigenous knowledge systems through the somewhat unfitting framework of intellectual property rights as evidenced by the most recent Intellectual Property Law Amendment Act 2013. When legislating in this area, emphasis must be on appropriately defining indigenous communities. Furthermore, lawmakers should generally be mindful that adding additional layers of IP or IP-like protection to hitherto unprotected subject matter also creates societal costs through further reducing a crucial and freely available knowledge resource – the public domain. As a vital engine for innovation, entrepreneurship and development in every country, the public domain is deserving of special protection. That being said, we are aware that indigenous knowledge has been historically characterised as in the public domain in order to appropriate such knowledge. Given such histories, the IKS Bill raises concerns over how to meet the interests of indigenous communities and attend to the interests of third parties to access such knowledge. One way to address these tensions is to put emphasis on developing a robust set of exceptions and limitations.

New article in Nature Biotechnology: A solution to the controversy on plant variety protection in Africa

A new article by Dr. Bram de Jonge, Dr. Niels P. Louwaars and Professor Julian Kinderlerer addresses the issue that African countries are fast-tracking the protection of plant varieties by embracing the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). The West-African Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle joined UPOV as its fifth African member in 2014. Around the same time, UPOV assessed a draft legislation of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization to be in conformity with its 1991 Act, paving the way for this East-African organization to become a UPOV member as well. The Southern African Development Community is currently drafting similar legislation. Together, these regional organizations represent 42 African countries. These decisions at the diplomatic level create controversy regarding possible negative impacts on smallholder farmers’ seed systems. We show in this commentary that African countries, by seizing the opportunity to implement a broad interpretation of one of the UPOV 1991 provisions, can overcome the controversy and establish a PVP system that supports commercial seed systems without negatively affecting smallholders.

Nature Biotechnology 33(5), pp. 487–488, May 2015, http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v33/n5/full/nbt.3213.html

Open AIR is looking for a Canada-based co-manager

opeairlogoThe Open African Innovation Research network, “Open AIR”, seeks an inspiring associate to co-manage the next phase of its collaborative research, training and outreach activities.

The Project Manager’s job is to help the network achieve our shared goals of:

  • Executing large-scale, empirical research on knowledge governance and innovation;
  • Building relationships among collaborators in Canada, the countries of Africa and the world;
  • Mentoring students who will become the next generation of emerging global leaders; and
  • Reaching out beyond the academic community to ensure our research has real-world impact.

Achieving our goals requires a Canada-based Project Manager to coordinate an array of complex tasks, working closely with our current management staff and research personnel throughout Africa. Our new Canada-based Project Manager will work especially closely with our network’s co-manager based at the University of Cape Town. More information, including salary, application deadline and contact details, is available here.

Marrakesh Treaty – Implementation Guide South Africa

marrakeshpicIn recognition of World IP Day 2015, the UCT IP Unit has published its Briefing Paper Marrakesh Treaty – Implementation Guide South Africa‘. The guideline document aims to enable the South African lawmaker to swiftly move forward with the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, in line with the country’s public expression of support for the treaty. The document examines the compatibility of the provisions of the treaty with the current copyright regime in South Africa and, where necessary, it provides suggestions for legislative amendments. The copyright law revision process currently underway in South Africa, together with the country’s goal of introducing a national IP Policy, provide a unique opportunity for making these changes in a timely manner.

Draft Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill published for comment

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 11.46.51 AMAt the end of March 2015 the Draft Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill was published in Government Gazette 38574. Written comments on the draft bill by members of the public and interested parties may be submitted to the Department of Science and Technology until 19 May 2015.

The IP Unit intends to submit its comments before the deadline on 19 May 2015.

The Bill aims to provide for:

  • the protection, promotion, development and management of indigenous knowledge systems
  • the establishment and functions of the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office
  • the management of rights of indigenous knowledge holders
  • the establishment and functions of the Advisory Panel on indigenous knowledge systems
  • access and conditions of access to knowledge of indigenous communities
  • the registration, accreditation and certification of indigenous knowledge holders and practitioners
  • the facilitation and coordination of indigenous knowledge systems-based innovation.

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UCT IP Unit involved in a new OCSDNet project

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.15.17 AM The IP Unit is involved in a new project carried out under the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet). The ‘Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Knowledge Systems Related to Climate Change and Intellectual Property Rights’ project examines processes of open and collaborative science related to indigenous peoples’ knowledge, climate change, and intellectual property. Participatory action research (“PAR”) will be carried out together with indigenous KhoiSan peoples to assess the following: (1) how climate change has impacted their communities; (2) how they have produced indigenous knowledge related to addressing climate change and alternative strategies; (3) how such knowledge is characterized (or not) as indigenous intellectual property and openly shared (or not) with the outside public; (4) and what types of laws and policies (including intellectual property rights) promote and/or hinder these strategies and open collaboration with the public? The 2-year project is led by Natural Justice researcher Catherine Traynor, who explains the project in this YouTube clip.

The African Scholars for Knowledge Justice (ASK Justice) Project

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 16.13.15 PMThe IP Unit will shortly commence a new 2 year research project, supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations. The African Scholars for Knowledge Justice (ASK Justice) Project seeks to contribute to positive policy change to increase access to medicines and access to knowledge. The project sets out to build a strong network of engaged faculty members at Southern and East African universities who through research, teaching and public voice from a human rights perspective influence current and future Intellectual Property law and policy reform processes in Africa. A better understanding of the under-explored interface of Human Rights, Intellectual Property and the Public Interest is expected to lead to positive policy change, and integrating this understanding into mainstream teaching and research will make teaching and research in this area more sustainable. The project will be carried out by participating faculty from the Universities of Nairobi, Strathmore, Makerere, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town. Andrew Rens and Dr. Tobias Schonwetter are Principal Investigators for the project and Nan Warner will be the project manager.

New IP Unit Project: Institutionalising Open Data Practice in Africa

ODDC2As 2014 comes to a close, we have just commenced a new exciting research project: Institutionalising Open Data Practice in AfricaAs governments and other institutions open up vast and complex datasets the expectation is that there will be widespread benefit as a consequence. There are, however, several stumbling blocks in the path of extracting the benefits of open data. This project focuses on the organisational dynamics that have the propensity to prevent open data practice from being embedded in organisations. With its focus on developing country contexts, the project aims to contribute to our theoretical understanding of change processes in organisations and provide insight into the socio-technical conditions under which open data initiatives in public agencies are likely to succeed. This project will develop a set of indicators which will gauge the extent to which open data practice is being embedded in a sustainable manner in public organisations. These organisations will be selected at both national and city level in South Africa and Kenya. Central to the indicators developed will be the licensing of open datasets as evidence of a normative acceptance at multiple organisational levels of the value of open data. Dr. Tobias Schonwetter serves as the project’s director and Michelle Willmers and Francois van Schalkwyk are key researchers; Michelle Willmers is also the project manager. The project is a collaborative undertaking between the World Wide Web Foundation and UCT, with seed funding from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Open Access Week 2014 event: Open Access and Copyright seminar

openaccessDr. Tobias Schonwetter, the Director of UCT’s Intellectual Property Unit, will be giving a seminar on Open Access and Copyright during OpenUCT‘s series of Open Access week events.

In March 2014 UCT’s Council adopted an Open Access Policy to preserve the scholarly work of UCT scholars and to make this scholarship discoverable, visible and freely available online to anyone who seeks it. The policy requires, among other things, employees and students who produce original scholarly output to deposit a version of their publications into UCT’s Institutional Repository and it generally supports the publication of materials under open Creative Commons licences to promote the sharing of knowledge. The seminar will briefly explain the general concept behind copyright protection and open access and address some of the issues arising from the practical implementation of the policy. Moreover, the session seeks to explain how open licensing works.

Date: 23 October 2014
Time 1-2 pm
Venue: University of Cape Town, Leslie Commerce 2A
RSVP: openuct@uct.ac.za

Open Access Week events are open to the public.

The meaning of ‘impact’: prestige or relevance for developing world research?

EveGray(by Eve Gray, originally published on the Open Access in the Developing World blog)

The impact factor under fire

The release of the 2014 Impact Factor Report was being awaited, as usual, with some anticipation by journal publishers and researchers to see who is in and who is out in this particular club this year. Yet this comes at a time when there is an ever-rising tide of contestation about its value as an analytic tool for research effectiveness in a radically changing research environment, and especially in the developing world. Among many others, Stephen Curry went viral in 2012 with his stinging dismissal of the IF as ‘statistically illiterate’.

The Impact Factor and the developing world

There is an interesting circularity about the impact story in the developing world. With the expansion of the number of developing country journals in the index, the inclusion of the Latin American open access journal platform, SciELO in the Wed of Science (the Thomson Reuters citation indexes), it would seem that there is a courtship going on in which the developing world is being drawn into the journal impact tables. Continue reading