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.

SAIPLJ: call for papers

The South African Intellectual Property Law Journal (SAIPLJ) hereby calls for submissions for publication in the 2015 issue.
Contributions on all aspects of intellectual property law that have relevance to Africa, particularly South Africa, are welcome. Submissions may be in the form of articles or notes not exceeding 10 000 words and 6000 words respectively. All submissions must be of a scholarly nature and conform to the SAIPLJ house style (available at
The journal is published by Juta & Co and is double peer-reviewed.
The SAIPLJ accepts submissions on an ongoing basis, however, the final submission date for consideration for the 2015 issue is 30 April 2015.
Submissions and enquiries can be directed to the Editors at


UCT IP Unit contributes to Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) forum on Open Access

NASAC logoThe Network of African Science Academies (NASAC) in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) recently held a ‘Consultative Forum on Open Access: Towards high level interventions for research and development in Africa’ in Nairobi, Kenya, on 29-30 January 2015.

Michelle Willmers, former Programme Manager of the Scholarly Communication in Africa Programme and current Project Manager of the Open Data Africa Initiative in the UCT IP Unit, was one of the scholarly communication experts invited to present in the forum. The two-day meeting drew together senior representatives from African science academies and was intended as a springboard to consolidate and promote a regional approach in advancing the Open Access agenda in Africa. The discussion covered a wide range of scholarly communication issues, ranging from new approaches to journal publishing and peer review to curation and intellectual property.

Questions around intellectual property, rights management and patenting are of central importance in the local debate around Open Access as many African institutions straddle the space between new open approaches and traditional more closed systems of practice. The need to consolidate efforts at regional level and lobby government for support and engagement with Open Access issues was one of the principle recommendations emerging from the forum.

The full set of final Scholarly Communication in Africa Programme (SCAP) outputs (including useful briefing papers on various aspects of Open Access) can be accessed here.

Copyright policy and the right to science and culture

By Caroline Ncube, Reposted from Afro-IP

download (1)A report entitled ‘Copyright policy and the right to science and culture’ authored by  the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed has been released (download it here, ref A/HRC/28/57 ).


The document summary reads:

‘In the present report, the Special Rapporteur examines copyright law and policy from the perspective of the right to science and culture, emphasizing both the need for protection of authorship and expanding opportunities for participation in cultural life.Recalling that protection of authorship differs from copyright protection, the Special Rapporteur proposes several tools to advance the human rights interests of authors. The Special Rapporteur also proposes to expand copyright exceptions and limitations to empower new creativity, enhance rewards to authors, increase educational opportunities, preserve space for non-commercial culture and promote inclusion and access to cultural works. An equally important recommendation is to promote cultural and scientific participation by encouraging the use of open licences, such as those offered by Creative Commons.’

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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.

AJIC Journal Call for Articles: “African Intersections between IP Rights and Knowledge Access”

LINK logo-3The African Journal of Information and Communication (AJIC), an accredited, peer-reviewed journal published by the LINK Centre at Wits University in Johannesburg, is calling for submissions to its 2015 Thematic Issue to be entitled “African Intersections between IP Rights and Knowledge Access”. Submissions, to Guest Editor Chris Armstrong, are due on or before 30 April 2015. Go to the Call for Submissions.

South African Intellectual Property Law Journal (2014)

(By Caroline Ncube, Reposted from Afro-IP)

23094532_IPLJ_1.png.400x400_q85_subsampling-2 betterThe second volume of the SA Intellectual Property Law Journal, published by Juta Law and edited by Lee-Ann Tong & Caroline Ncube is now available.

Juta Law is a RoMEO white publisher and the full length articles are not immediately available online to non-subscribers. Some articles will be available after June 2015 via institutional repositories affiliated with the authors, where they are available.

For more information:
See here for Juta Law’s copyright & self-archiving policies
See here for purchase and subscription
Relevant Institutional Repositories: UCT, Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria, University of the Western Cape

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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).

High level round-table meeting on Plant Variety Protection in Africa

ISSD The IP Unit is hosting a high level round-table meeting on Plant Variety Protection in Africa in collaboration with the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) Africa Program and Wageningen University. ISSD aims to promote agricultural development by recognizing and building upon the diversity of seed systems in a given country. The meeting is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Several countries and regions in Africa are in the process of developing and implementing Plant Variety Protection (PVP) systems in response to various policy goals. However this has not been without social debate because of concerns about the impact on informal seed systems, which still is the predominant source of seed for smallholder farmers in Africa. Plant variety rights are an important instrument for incentivising breeding in the formal and above all the commercial seed systems, their impact on informal seed systems is disputed.

The goal of the meeting is to encourage a free and frank discussion among key stakeholders of these issues including key components of a differentiated PVP system which incorporates the various seed systems and supports commercial, food security and smallholder farmers’ interests. The round-table meeting will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 27-28 November 2014.


CopyrightX:UCT applications now open

The IP Unit will run a CopyrightX course at UCT in early 2015. CopyrightX: UCT will be administered by UCT Law@Work: Professional Development Protect 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. Through a combination of pre-recorded lectures, readings, seminars, live webcasts, and online discussions, the participants in these courses examine and assess the ways in which law seeks to stimulate and regulate creative expression. Some of the conversations enabled by CopyrightX are small and limited to students in a single course, while others are global and engage the students in all of the affiliated institutions. 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 Center for Internet and Society. A list of the other participating organisations and additional information concerning this educational initiative is available at

CopyrightX: UCT consists of the Harvard pre-recorded lectures, accompanied by reading materials relating to U.S. and South African copyright law. Weekly class-room seminars will be held every Thursday from 18h00 to 19h30 at the University of Cape Town, starting on 12 February 2015 and ending on 23 April 2015. These seminars will be taught by Dr. Tobias Schonwetter . Seminars consist of discussions of lectures and will more closely analyse copyright issues from a South African perspective.

Admission to the South African affiliate course is free. Everyone residing in South Africa can apply, provided they can attend the face-to-face lectures on Thursdays at UCT. However, the number of course participants is limited, and registrations will be capped at 30. Applications are considered based on a short motivation letter. Application is open between now and 30 November 2014. All applicants will be notified of the status of their application no later than 15 December 2014.

For more info and to apply click here.

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