Author Archives: tobiasschonwetter

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

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

WTO Public Forum 2014: Formal IP System Does Not Fit Africa, LDCs Need Technological Capacity, Speakers Say

(by Catherine Saez, first published in IP Watch (Geneva))

TobiasWTOOn the last day of the World Trade Organization Public Forum, a panel discussed the relationship between intellectual property and innovation in Africa, in particular in the informal sector. The formal IP system does not seems to fit, and least-developed countries need a sound technological base to be able to use the IP system. Separately, a European Patent Office study shows that Africa has a vast yet untapped potential in renewable energy. The annual WTO Public Forum took place from 1-3 October with the theme “Why trade matters to everyone.” The panel was organised by the African Innovation Research and Training project (Open AIR), the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), and the European Patent Office (EPO).

‘We Just Create Differently’

According to Tobias Schönwetter, director of the Intellectual Property Unit, Faculty of Law at University of Cape Town (South Africa), and co-principal investigator at Open AIR project, more and more people realise that IP rights by definition are monopolies, and inherently anti-competitive. There is increasing scepticism to the “one size-fits-all approach,” which was promoted by IP regimes, and through international treaties, he said. It is important to take into account the differences of the African context as compared to other regions, he said. In particular, he said the Open Air project took into account the extreme diversity of the African continent. Africa has unique innovation and entrepreneurial dynamics. “We just create differently, we just innovate differently,” he said, and that might not be well covered by the current IP instruments. The project, which covered 19 case studies, created a wide network of IP innovation and entrepreneurial specialists in Africa, he said. A further foresight scenario exercise was undertaken, taking the results of the research and translating that into what it means for Africa in the next 30 years, to be presented to policymakers, he explained. The overarching conclusions of the project, he said, is that the African context seems to be predisposed to innovation of necessity or accidental innovation, not so much focused on frontier or high technology innovation. Orthodox categories of IP often remain ill-equipped to deal with innovation originating from Africa. “They just don’t fit,” he said, and the infrastructure for research and IP management is often poor. A recommendation to policymakers would be to “avoid policy mistakes” and consider that while there is really no IP policy in Africa yet, although it is starting, sometimes no IP policy is better than having the wrong IP policy to foster innovation, he said. Another recommendation would be that sui generis forms of IP protection, such as trade secrets may be better suited for facilitating innovation in Africa than other forms of intellectual property such as patents or copyright, he concluded. Dick Kawooya, Uganda team member and principal investigator for the Open AIR project, concurred to say that western IP tools were for the most part irrelevant for innovation in the African context.Three scenarios came out of the foresight exercise, he said, one of which focused on the informal sector and for which a broader concept of knowledge governance was used, including IP tools, but going beyond those. Based on the case studies, he said, improvisation is very important for the informal sector, he said. “Someone operating in the informal sector has to constantly innovate,” he said. Improvisation is very important to the informal sector, so is apprenticeship. A lot of what happens in the informal sector is open, he said “so what puts you on the edge … is really producing more complex products or processes.” These knowledge appropriation mechanisms are important in Africa, he said.  Continue reading

The power of DRM – the power to make you less money

drmby Kelsey Wiens (originally published on her personal blog. All content CC-BY unless otherwise noted).

Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is a digital encryption lock that is applied to film, music, video game, and books. The challenge with DRM is that it makes it difficult to share or move books between devices and traps consumers into one device.

The Big 5 Publishers (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House and Simon and Schuster) all automatically apply DRM to all ebooks on Amazon but if you are a independent publisher or author you can choose to apply DRM or not. Once this choice is applied you cannot change it in either direction.

Author Earning recently studied 120,000 of Amazon’s top selling ebooks to see how often DRM was applied and if DRM had any effect on sales.

Not surprisingly the Big 5 evokes DRM almost 100% of the time. By contrast, independent publishers have about 50% of the titles with DRM.  And the 50% of non-DRM ebooks account for 64% of total unit sales. Continue reading

2014 WTO Public Forum: Innovation, IP and the role of informal sectors in Africa’s development

wtopublicDuring the upcoming 2014 WTO Public Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, Open AIRWTIUNCTADIDEAS Centre and ICTSD will jointly organise a panel discussion. The session will look at the role of innovation and IP in Africa’s development process as well as how partners can contribute with improved technology transfer and better targeted technical assistance. Specific reference will be made to innovation in the informal economies and their contribution to Africa’s share in international trade. In the majority of African countries, the informal economy remains predominant. Most African countries are LDCs, exempted from most TRIPS obligations until 2021. Yet a number of African countries seek to use IP to generate greater value added for their agricultural products (such as coffee), traditional knowledge and genetic resources through, for example, the use of trademarks and geographical indications. Africa’s informal sectors are particularly adept at appropriating knowledge to facilitate rapid and locally relevant innovation.


• Taffere Tesfachew, UNCTAD

• Pedro Roffe, ICTSD

• Dick Kawooya, Open AIR, University of South Carolina,

• Tobias Schonwetter, Open AIR; IP Unit, UCT

Moneyweb vs. Fin24 – copyright infringement litigation

by A/Prof Caroline Ncube (the is a shortened version of a blog post published on Afro-IP)

Moneyweb is suing Fin24 for copyright infringement arising out of Fin24’s (re-)publication of eight articles which had been initially published by Moneyweb (see a Mail and Guardian report here). Moneyweb has created a dedicated website (here) where it has posted all of the pleadings filed to date and media articles. This will be a very interesting case to follow, as it is the first time a South African court has had an opportunity to consider whether news aggregation constitutes copyright infringement. Anton Harber succinctly captured what’s at stake, when he blogged: “This is a battle of our media giants, as Moneyweb is owned by Caxton and Fin24 by Nasper’s Media24. The elephants are fighting and the ants are watching, as always, nervously.” (Read his full post here).

Copyright User Rights and South African Filmmaking Briefing

bpfuOn 18 August 2014, the South African Screen Federation (SASFED), the Documentary Filmmakers’ Association (DFA), UCT’s IP Unit, and American University’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) held a public briefing in Johannesburg on the implications of an international research project on “Copyright Users’ Rights and the Clearance Culture in South African Filmmaking.” The briefing was organised in the context of the South African government’s announced intention to amend the Copyright Act, and discussed filmmakers’ potential interests in protecting, clarifying and expanding “user rights” in the law that permit creators and others to use copyright-protected content in subsequent work of authorship. South African and international copyright experts, local filmmakers and government officials attended, including Peter Jaszi, Professor of Law, American Washington College of Law, Sean Flynn, Associate Director, Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) at American University Washington College of Law, Dr. Tobias Schonwetter, the IP Unit’s Director and Regional Coordinator of Creative Commons Africa, and Andrew Rens, Senior Research Associate at the IP Unit. Professors Jaszi and Flynn were instrumental in developing the hugely successful U.S. version of Best Practices in Fair Use document that makes clear what documentary filmmakers currently regard as reasonable application of the copyright Fair Use doctrine. Participants of the meeting agreed that a plan should be developed to create a similar document for South Africa.