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.

UCT students and staff: win the UCT RCIPS meme competition & learn about Creative Commons

ChnGhwNU4AAr125In celebration of World IP Day (26 April), UCT’s Research Contracts and Intellectual Property Services is hosting a meme competition sponsored by the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO). Using the Creative Commons, the goal is to create a dialogue centred around where we get our digital content and why we need to be aware of image licensing. Prizes will be awarded for “The Most Creative & The Most Popular” entries. The competition is open to all UCT students and staff – entries close 17h00 SAST on 19 May 2016. More information is available here.

Leadership Dialogue on Open Access and African Research Publishing in the 21st Century

On 3 May, the IP Unit, together with Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA), the Magna Charta Observatory and UNESCO, organised a Leadership Dialogue at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on the future of Open Access publishing of African scholarly research against the backdrop of global shifts in how Open Access is applied. By evaluating what is happening in regions such as Latin America and Europe and reflecting on the values underpinning Open Access publishing, higher education decision-makers had the opportunity to contribute to an initial position on how Africa and its sub-regions should address research publishing. The timing of the event was ideal, since the global debate is shifting to less dogmatic ways of interpreting Open Access. The event provided African higher education stakeholders with a unique opportunity to shape this debate globally and for the African continent. This half-day event was an ideal pre-conference event for Vice-Chancellors and senior higher education decision makers attending the 2016 Going Global Conference at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town. The programme for the event is available here.

Book launch: ‘IP Policy, Law and Administration in Africa’ by Prof Ncube

41WdlJIq+rL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_On 14 April 2016, UCT’s Professor Caroline Ncube, Head of the Department of Commercial Law, launched her new book titled Intellectual Property Policy, Law and Administration in Africa: Exploring Continental and Sub-Regional Co-operation in front of a formidable crowd at UCT’s law faculty. In her public conversation with Dr. Ada Ordor, director of the law faculty’s Centre for Comparative Law, Professor Ncube described her contribution to the field of intellectual property as “public interest based discussion on Africa from Africa”. In his congratulatory remarks, Dr. Tobias Schonwetter – the IP Unit’s director – stated that this book will be an extremely valuable resource for policy makers and scholars in the field. He emphasised that one of the book’s virtues is that it evaluates past and makes suggestions for future IP harmonisation efforts in Africa under due consideration of a state’s socio-economic and human rights or constitutional priorities. In doing so, Professor Ncube’s work builds upon the various research projects in the field undertaken by members of the IP Unit.

A video of Prof Ncube’s conversation with Dr. Ordor is available here.

Job opportunity for UCT students

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.36.20 PMThe IP Unit is looking for student research assistants, for a period of 6 months, beginning April 2016. Student research assistants will work on two of our projects: Open AIR and ASK Justice. Student research assistant duties will span the scholarly spectrum and can include: conducting literature reviews; creating surveys and other tools; collecting, managing and analysing data; co-writing peer reviewed articles and media materials; co-presenting findings; and assisting with the management of Unit activities within a broader organisational structure. Student research assistants will also be encouraged and supported to conduct their own original research, under the direction and mentorship of academics based at UCT and/or other participating faculty, and could receive authorial or co-authorial credit. These activities will build academic skills like research methods, theory building, and scholarly publishing. Student research assistants will also have administrative duties within Open AIR and ASK Justice in order to help build highly transferable professional skills such as leadership and teamwork, project management, and community engagement. Student research assistants are expected to work, at the IP Unit, for up to 35 hours per month. The full job advertisement is available here. The deadline for applications is 31 March 2016.

IPU hosts a CopyrightX:UCT special event & staff seminar by Prof Jane Ginsburg

[By Caroline Ncube]

On the 24th of February 2016, the UCT IP Unit hosted a CopyrightX:UCT special event and staff seminar at which Professor Jane Ginsburg of Columbia Law School presented a paper entitled ‘Exceptional Authorship: The Role of Copyright Exceptions in Promoting Creativity’ [available for download at SSRN]. The seminar was well attended and a lively debate followed Prof Ginsburg’s presentation. On the previous day Prof Ginsburg gave a guest lecture to LLB and LLM IP students during which she spoke about the reversion of copyright, which is one of the proposals included in the Copyright Amendment Bill, 2015.


AJIC Issue 19, 2016: Call for submissions

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 11.18.08 AMThe African Journal of Information and Communication (AJIC) invites submissions to its Issue 19, 2016, which will be a thematic issue focusing on matters of “Knowledge Governance for Development”. AJIC is DHET-accredited, peer-reviewed, open access journal published under a Creative Commons (CC BY 4.0) licence by the LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg. Submissions should touch on an element or elements of knowledge governance (e.g., knowledge creation, access, use, sharing, transfer, management, appropriation) in relation to socio-economic development in Africa, and/or elsewhere in the developing world with relevance to Africa through focus on one or more of the following:


The primary editors of this Thematic Issue are Dr. Chris Armstrong of the Wits LINK Centre and Dr. Tobias Schonwetter of the IP Unit, in collaboration with AJIC Corresponding Editor Lucienne Abrahams of the Wits LINK Centre.Proposed contributions to this Thematic Issue must be submitted on or before 30 April 2016 to Dr. Armstrong at c.g.armstrong(at)gmail(dot)com. Further information, including submission guidelines, is available here.

Wiki Primary School Project Edit-a-thons in Cape Town

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.36.20 PMThe IP Unit, in collaboration with Wikimedia ZA and WikiAfrica, will host two Edit-a-Thons in Cape Town at the end of this month as part of the Wiki Primary School Project. The Wiki Primary School Project is a joint research project carried out by the IP Unit and SUPSI – The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, with the support of South Africa’s NRF and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). It aims, in a nutshell, to provide on Wikipedia the information necessary to complete the cycle of primary education in South Africa. Currently, Wikipedia does not provide information that responds directly to curriculum-based questions. Please consider joining us for the Wikipedia Primary School edit-a-thons to help add and improve articles on Wikipedia that are important to primary school children in South Africa. We are planning to have 3 thematic streams at both edit-a-thons: (1) South African women leaders and issues around women; (2) South Africa’s indigenous people; and (3) good news stories affecting the youth (such as discoveries, inventions and policies).

Dates : 19 and 26 February 2016

Where : American Corner, Central Library, Old Drill Hall, cnr Parade & Darling, Cape Town

Time : 15:00 – 18:00

Cost : Free

Refreshments and light snacks will be provided.

Please RSVP for these events via Eventbrite

AJIC Journal Issue 16: African Intersections between IP Rights and Knowledge Access

AJIC logo

Issue 16 of the The African Journal of Information and Communication (AJIC), published in December 2015, is a thematic issue focused on “African Intersections between Intellectual Property Rights and Knowledge Access”. Published by the Wits University LINK Centre in Johannesburg, AJIC is a peer-reviewed, open access journal made available under a Creative Commons licence. UCT IP Unit Director Dr Tobias Schonwetter served as a Guest Editor of this issue, along with Dr Chris Armstrong of the Wits LINK Centre. The articles range across a wide variety of IP and access to knowledge (A2K) matters on the African continent, including government open data portals, plant variety protection, access to medicines, copyright user rights for filmmakers, copyright and graffiti, the human rights dimension of IP, small-enterprise approaches to knowledge governance, and prospects for open licensing of scholarly and educational materials. Countries covered are Egypt, Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. Download AJIC Issue 16 PDF or AJIC Issue 16 Print-on-Demand PDF.

CopyrightX:UCT applications now open

copyx The IP Unit is pleased to again present a CopyrightX affiliated course in 2016. CopyrightX:UCT will be administered by UCT Law@Work: Professional Development Project 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. 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. Nine contact sessions will take place on Wednesdays between 17 February 2016 and 27 April 2016. The classroom seminars will discuss the pre-recorded lectures and will more closely analyse South African Copyright law and the issues faced. The seminars will be taught by Dr. Tobias Schonwetter.

The course is totally free of charge. Applicants must provide a motivation of approximately 400 words stating why they want to participate in CopyrightX:UCT, and how they plan on utilising their knowledge afterwards. Furthermore, applicants must make a commitment to actively participate in the course and attend the weekly seminars at the University of Cape Town.

Applications are open between now and 18 December 2015.  Successful applicants will be notified by 13 January 2016.

For more info and to apply click here.

Open AIR – Call for Case Studies

openairDuring its 3rd phase, Open AIR investigates how open collaborative innovation can help businesses scale up and seize the new opportunities of a global knowledge economy, and which knowledge governance systems will best ensure that the social and economic benefits of innovation are shared inclusively across society as a whole.

Open AIR is now seeking case studies that examine the connection between the practice of collaborative innovation and the processes of knowledge sharing and/or knowledge appropriation through intellectual property rights and other mechanisms. Studies should focus on one or more of Open AIR’s four priority research themes: (1) high technology hubs, (2) informal sector innovation, (3) indigenous and local entrepreneurs, and (4) metrics, laws and policies.

For further information, please visit the Open AIR website. Proposals are due on or before 10 December 2015.

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