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.

IP Unit submits its comments regarding DTI’s Draft IP Policy

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 11.21.26 AMOn 17 October 2013, the IP Unit, together with colleagues affiliated with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, submitted to the Department of Trade and Industry comments (click here) regarding the DRAFT NATIONAL POLICY ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. In our submission we comment on the broad issues of principle, indicate where we find the draft policy desirable or undesirable, and add some of our own recommendations. Although the current policy document contains confused drafting as well as several erroneous factual and legal statements that require to be rectified, the overall intention of the draft policy is in our view good: it is grounded in a developmental approach appropriate to our country, and seeks to eliminate the many negative outcomes of IP protection which are detrimental to the broader society. The current draft suggest that the drafters of the policy are aware of the many and complex issues related to intellectual property, especially in times of rapid technological advances and globalisation. And it appears the drafters’ overarching objective is to strike a fair balance between competing private and public interests in the field – taking into consideration South Africa’s specific needs and circumstances. The drafters of the policy are to be commended for their boldness and willingness to fundamentally question some of the existing IP paradigms and practices in South Africa in their quest to develop an IP framework that truly benefits the people of South Africa and propels the country’s IP framework into the 21st century.

Consultative workshop on IP and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances

daclogoOn 14 October 2013 the IP Unit and the South African Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) jointly hosted a workshop on IP instruments impacting the creative sectors in South Africa. Among other things, the 2012 Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances and the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works For Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled were discussed. This workshop formed part of a series of workshops with academics and other experts currently hosted by the DAC to examine selected issues of IP in South Africa as a result of new international treaties in the field before South Africa decides whether or not to accede to these treaties. The event took place at the Slave Lodge, 49 Adderley Street, Cape Town.

Evidence Based Copyright Reform in South Africa

[originally posted by Caroline Ncube on] The  Law and Economics of Copyright Users Rights conference probed the value of economic empirical  evidence to copyright reform discussions. This post gives an account of the use of such evidence in current reform discourse in South Africa. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has taken some initial steps towards a comprehensive IP reform process by  publishing a draft national IP policy, which is currently open for public comment. The copyright sections of the draft policy do not engage with user rights in a detailed manner. Some mention is made of the need to have meaningful exceptions and limitations (E & L) ( at p16)  and the need to ensure that  these are not abrogated online through the use of technological protection mechanisms protected by anti-circumvention provisions (at p29). Currently the Copyright Act falls far short of reasonable expectations – it does not provide for E & L for the visually-impaired and does not cater adequately for online and distance learning (see the findings of the African Copyright and A2K project). One would therefore expect the draft policy, as the first step towards copyright reform, to raise these issues and to do so in a robust manner informed by empirical and other evidence. Continue reading

DTI’s Draft IP Policy for South Africa out for public comment

On 4 September 2013 the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in South Africa has published its long-awaited DRAFT NATIONAL POLICY ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY  for public comment. Interested persons can now submit written comments on the proposed policy within thirty days from the date of its release. According to the draft, the policy has 18 broad objectives, including promoting development and innovation in the country and improving access to IP-based goods and technologies. The draft policy expressly states that “[n]ational IP laws must be appropriate to the level of development and innovation of the country” – a notable move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to IP. As mentioned in this article in Intellectual Property Watch we at the IP Unit are very excited to engage with this draft policy as the final policy will shape future lawmaking in the area of IP in South Africa. If you want to comment on the draft IP Policy without having to submit your own document to the DTI please feel free to add your comments into this public Google document.

SA Cabinet approved the publication of the National IP Policy

The South African Cabinet has approved the publication of the National IP Policy for public comment for a period of 30 days. According the Government Communication’s website, “the Policy aims to holistically align and address the various issues relating to intellectual property, which cut across various disciplines, including: trade, science, agriculture and health. There is therefore a need for a one-policy approach at national and international level from Government.” We will link to the IP Policy on this website once it becomes publicly available.

Call for presentations and workshops

Conference-LogoThe organisers of the Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest invite the following proposals:

  1. Presentation/paper proposals – for presentations/papers to be presented  in one of the five thematic tracks: (1) user rights; (2) access to medicines; (3) enforcement; (4) openness; and (5) traditional knowledge.
  2. Participant-organised workshop proposals – for participant-organised workshops to be convened on a subject of your choice that is relevant to the participants in the Congress.

Proposed contributions should address one of the five thematic tracks, and should also shed light on the overarching theme of “Global questions, local answers”. What is the public interest in IP? Is it similar or different from place to place? What are the local priorities among the communities you work with? How are public interest IP research and advocacy activities connected? Which strategies are most effective for achieving positive change at the global or local level?

The deadline is 31 August 2013 for registered Congress & Conference participants to submit a proposal (via this form) to deliver a presentation/paper and/or convene a workshop. Proposal approval decisions will be made by a Selection Committee.

New book: Updating the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection for the Digital Age

210px-Consumers_International_logoSince 2010, Consumers International has been engaged in proposing revisions to the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection to incorporate Access to Knowledge principles that are important for today’s consumers. In 2012, this project was expanded to include a full review of the Guidelines. In July 2013 the book Updating the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection for the Digital Age was launched at WITS University in South Africa. Members of the IP Unit contributed to the book.

3rd Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest and Open A.I.R. Conference on Innovation and IP in Africa

Conference-LogoFrom 9 to 13 December 2013, delegates from national and international governmental entities, the private sector, civil society and academia will gather for five days in Cape Town, South Africa. Hosted by the IP Unit, participants will engage with diverse perspectives and future scenarios for intellectual property (IP), innovation and development during the combined 3rd Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest and Open A.I.R. Conference on Innovation and IP in Africa. These concurrent events are being convened at the historic Breakwater Lodge conference centre in Cape Town’s Waterfront district. Click here to register. Registration is free until 31 August 2013. For registration assistance and media enquiries, please contact our Congress & Conference Lead Coordinator Nan Warner.

Creative Commons Global Summit 2013 in Buenos Aires

Ccsum-700From 21 – 24 August 2013, the global community of Creative Commons will gather in Buenos Aires for the bi-annual Global Summit. The event will be co-hosted by local Creative Commons affiliates, Fundación Vía Libre and Wikimedia Argentina. Continue reading

IP Law Certificate Short Course

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 22.00.08 PMUCT’s IP Unit, in collaboration with the Anton Mostert Chair of Intellectual Property Law (Stellenbosch University), is hosting a short course on IP Law from 24 – 26 July 2013. 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. For more information visit UCT’s Law@Work website.

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