UCT’s Intellectual Property 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, taking into account the needs of society, rights owners and consumers. Our vision is to be a leading voice in realising a continent where there is an open exchange about African ideas, creativity and innovation, in pursuit of sustainable development. We promote research, teaching, and learning in IP through holistic, balanced and open approaches, in order to stimulate innovation that drives development. Our core values are integrity, inclusiveness and relevance. We believe that South Africa has a leadership role in defining IP challenges in emerging and developing countries. We develop our programs through dialogue, research, debate and capacity building.

Postdoctoral Research Fellowship: DST/NRF SARChI Research Chair: Intellectual Property, Innovation & Development



Deadline: 2018-10-15

The DST/NRF funded South African Research Chair in Intellectual Property Innovation and Development, at the Department of Commercial Law, University of Cape Town has one post-doctoral fellowship available for 2019, for which applications are invited. The successful candidate must be capable of participating in the Chair’s research focus areas of intellectual property and innovation, within the context of South Africa’s National Development Plan Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis, taking into account the applicant’s academic achievements and researcher potential. The applicant’s research outputs contribute significantly to his/her selection for an award. Applicants should ensure that a full list of their research outputs, including publication records, are included in their CV.

Conditions, Value and Tenure of the Fellowship

In addition to complying with the University’s policies, procedures and practises for the postdoctoral sector, the fellow will be expected, under the auspices of the Chair, to prepare at least three subsidy- bearing journal articles (or the equivalent) for publication over the course of the 12-month duration of the fellowship. The fellow will also be expected to support the operation of the Chair actively and will be given opportunities to develop his/her professional profile through teaching and/or postgraduate supervision experience. This is a full-time position, based in Cape Town, and fellows may not hold any other full-time or part-time job or undertake any other work for remuneration for the duration of the fellowship.

The tenure of the fellowship is for one year, with the possibly of renewal for a second year subject to satisfactory progress. The value of the fellowship for 2019 is R220,000. The fellowship does not include benefits or travel/relocation costs but the Chair will assist the fellow to seek funding for conference expenses, where required. The release of funds is dependent on satisfactory progress reported. The fellow’s performance will be evaluated formally per semester, for which purpose the submission of progress reports will be required in June and October.


Applicants must:

  • hold a PhD in Intellectual Property Law, or a related field, awarded within the last five years; or must provide proof that their PhD examination process will be successfully completed by the time the fellowship is taken up, and no later than December 2018.
  • provide evidence of strong scholarly performance (e.g. publications, participation in research projects, networks, conference presentations)
  • demonstrate willingness and ability to be both a team player and a team leader, and conduct research in an interdisciplinary environment
  • demonstrate good organizational and management skills; and excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Satisfy the relevant NRF criteria and comply with its rules and guidelines

Postdoctoral fellowships are open to all nationalities. Preference will be given to South African citizens and South African permanent residents, followed by African citizens and, finally, to other foreign nationals


Applications should be sent to SARChI-IP@uct.ac.za and should include:

  1. The applicant’s full curriculum vitae and list of publications
  2. The names and contact details of at least two academics who have taught, supervised or worked alongside the applicant, , who should also be requested to submit their confidential reports to SARChI-IP@uct.ac.za by the closing date
  3. Certified copies of all academic transcripts and degree certificates
  4. A specimen of the applicant’s writing, such as a journal article already published / accepted for publication or a chapter from the applicant’s doctoral thesis
  5. A proposal of the coherent body of research to emanate from the fellowship, indicating the overarching research pursuit, and the workplan that will result in the required number of publications, with potential topics.

The Chair will consider only eligible and complete applications, submitted on or before 15 October 2018. The University reserves the right to disqualify ineligible and/or incomplete applications, and to change the conditions of award and/or to make no awards at all.

Further information about postdoctoral fellows at UCT
Further information on NRF criteria, bursary values, rules and guidelines
Further information on the Chair on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Development Further information about SARChI Chairs at UCT
Further information on applying to the LLM/MPhil programme
Further information on applying to the PhD programme

Zimbabwe Launches National IP Policy and Implementation Strategy

by Charlene Musiza

charleneZimbabwe launched its National Intellectual Property Policy and Implementation Strategy https://www.herald.co.zw/just-in-gvt-launches-intellectual-property-policy/ on 28 June 2018, just a few weeks after the South African Cabinet approved South Africa’s IP Policy, Phase 1 [http://ip-unit.org/2018/south-africa-approves-new-ip-policy-with-guidance-from-un-agencies/]. Zimbabwe joins other countries in the SADC region that have adopted national intellectual property (IP) policies like Malawi, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zambia. Zimbabwe’s IP Policy, produced by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, is the result of technical assistance from WIPO under the framework of the WIPO Development Agenda [http://www.wipo.int/ip-development/en/agenda/] and various stakeholder consultations beginning with the first draft IP Policy compiled by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Intellectual Property back in 2014. The IP Policy is a cross cutting document aimed to enhance economic, social and cultural development.

The overall objective of the IP Policy is to ensure that the IP governance framework leverages the country’s IP potential for inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development. It outlines specific objectives which, among others, include: raising and consolidating IP awareness; enhancing IP knowledge and professional skills capacities; protecting and enforcing IP; and encouraging and facilitating IP commercialisation.

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Tobacco Plain Packaging: An oncoming trademark dispute in South Africa?

by Tanveer Jeewa

Image from iOSFor years now there have been discussions about the possible plain packaging of tobacco products in South Africa. Several other countries such as England, Ireland, France and Australia have already introduced laws prescribing tobacco plain packaging. And some of them had to put up a fight at either the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, very recently, on 27 June 2018, a dispute settlement panel set up by the WTO ruled over a six year long legal battle: the dispute was brought forward in 2012 and the complainants were Honduras, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia. The complainants were all party to the issue due to their trade relations with Australia concerning tobacco products, and as many as 35 countries were involved in the dispute in their capacity as third parties. The complainants had each asked for a panel to be set up for consultations but, as their subject matter was similar, their cases were merged.

According to the news outlet The Guardian, the Australian Government has used close to 40 million Australian dollars against Phillip Morris Asia to defend its plain packaging laws. This puts in context how controversial tobacco plain packaging has been and still is.

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New study on the meaning of the “public domain” in the context of TK

chidiLater this month, we will be welcoming Professor Chidi Oguamanam at the IP Unit for a research visit. Professor Oguamanam recently published a fascinating study ,entitled, “Wandering footloose: Traditional knowledge and the ‘Public Domain’ revisited,” in which he addresses the meaning of “public domain” in the context of traditional knowledge (TK). The study was picked up in a recent Intellectual Property Watch article by Damillola Adepeju and summarised as follows: The study highlights that it provides a non-Eurocentric conception of “public domain” in order to recognise the customary laws and practices of indigenous and local communities (ILCs). The idea of a public domain in intellectual property rights is that of limited term rights where such rights are seen as a trade-off as part of a social contract. “The state incentivises those who have made useful innovations or other creative works by way of a state sanctioned monopoly,” the paper states. “At the end of the monopoly, they are required to hands-off or take off tolls on the innovation so that it would be flushed into the sinkhole of the public domain for members of the public to freely access for various ends, including the creation of more useful innovation(s).” Regarding this public domain, the study highlights that the United States and its allies have been putting pressure on traditional knowledge stakeholders concerning the protection of traditional knowledge. These countries are of the view that effective protection of traditional knowledge will “undermine” the public domain, the study explains. This pressure, the study points out, is ironic considering that these countries, led by the United States, have “worked tirelessly over the decades to ratchet up intellectual property protection at the expense of the public domain.” These are the same countries that “have now reconstituted themselves into its later day champions when it comes to TK,” the study states. “United States insists that the primacy for the protection of TK lies with the recognition of ‘the value of a vibrant public domain, the body of knowledge that is available for all to use and which is essential for creativity and innovation,’” it says. But the study shows that indigenous and local communities have not disregarded the public domain. However, their worldviews differ as “[t]here is little or no emphasis on the appropriation narrative or appropriation imperative in the mould of Western social contract philosophy.”

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Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Peoples Rights in Academic Research Processes: A Guide for Communities in South Africa

by Cath Traynor
(this article was first published by Natural Justice)

Nama_Khuboes-DamienSchumann-RTNCResearch involving communities and their knowledge can result in unintended negative impacts: A new guide – co-published by Natural Justice, the IP Unit and Indiana University-Bloomington’s Department of Gender Studies – supports communities to understand the law, harness their rights and negotiate more socially just research processes. The guide discusses indigenous rights in the context of academic research practices, including free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and intellectual property rights. Adhering to the principles of FPIC, communities should be in a position to make an informed decision on the potential risks and benefits of proposed research, and the guide highlights some key areas.

During a collaborative research project of the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet) that investigated climate change and the role of indigenous knowledge in assisting communities to adapt, members of Indigenous Nama and Griqua communities in South Africa raised concerns about research processes in general. As expert knowers in how research and knowledge has historically been produced involving indigenous peoples, they articulated inherent conflicts that arise when participating in research that is primarily designed and led by those outside of their communities. Conversations revealed that although their communities have a culture of sharing, they were hesitant to share their knowledge with researchers because of the risks involved, and that in the past their contributions had been left unacknowledged and they had received little or no benefit from participation. The guide was created in response to these concerns.

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Data, Databases and Copyright Protection in South Africa, Part I

by Dr. Tobias Schönwetter and Desmond Oriakhogba

14391222825_f636faefe7_oGenerally, open data initiatives are important means of promoting the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of access to information, freedom to receive information, and right to education (ss32, 16(1)(b) and 29 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa). Such initiatives are also important in ensuring informed planning and policy making by government and citizen participation in governance, among others. A 2013 article in the Daily Maverick by Adi Eyal and a recent blog post by the IP Unit’s Eve Gray on climate data and the water crisis in Cape Town confirm that claims to copyright protection of data and databases containing publicly relevant data is a challenge to making such data open.  This raises questions as to the extent to which data and databases are indeed protected under the South African Copyright Act. This article is the first part in a series of blog posts with the main objective of examining the extent of copyright protection of data in South Africa. By way of providing background to the second part, it first discusses the broad issue of copyright protection in databases in South Africa. The second part will then address the important issue of whether and in which circumstances data enjoys copyright protection in South Africa.

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Call for Volunteers for Wikimania

Picture1Wikimania, the annual conference celebrating the Wikimedia Foundation’s free knowledge projects – such as Wikipedia – is coming to Cape Town soon and you can be a part of it! This is a great opportunity to participate in a truly global and inspiring event.The theme of Wikimania 2018 is “Bridging knowledge gaps: the Ubuntu way forward”. Join this event for free by volunteering some of your time during the university holiday to help host the first-ever-in-Sub-Saharan-Africa Wikimania conference.

As a volunteer you will enjoy the following benefits:

  • Free access to the conference/two parties
  • Free catering
  • Transportation to and from UCT
  • Great opportunity to meet the people behind Wikipedia, e.g. Jimmy Wales
  • Participation in open technology/open knowledge forums
  • Endorsement as an open knowledge promoter
  • Immersion in the global free knowledge movement

You can find more information and register at: https://wikimania2018.wikimedia.org/wiki/Volunteer

Note: there is a limited number of volunteering places so register as soon as possible! (There will be no commitments or meetings during the exam period.)

South Africa Approves New IP Policy, With Guidance From UN Agencies



(by Linda Daniels – first published for Intellectual Property Watch under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

It took nine years of policy development, two different draft policies and various rounds of public consultation, to finally see Cabinet give the nod to the new Intellectual Property (IP) policy in South Africa.

Cabinet, the highest decision-making body of government made the announcement in a statement released earlier this week. Cabinet’s approval of the policy has set in motion an administrative process which will lead to the publication of the finalized policy in the government gazette. At this stage it is unclear when it will be published.

High-level input went into the IP policy and Cabinet’s approval was applauded by both local and international IP stakeholder communities.

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Workshop on Innovation and Intellectual Property in South Africa

By Charlene Musiza

Image uploaded from iOSOn Tuesday 15 May 2018, the South African Department of Trade and Industry – supported by the IP Unit, the WITS Institute for Social and Economic Research and the Shuttleworth Foundation -organised a workshop to discuss the recent publication ‘Innovation and Intellectual Property in South Africa: The Case for Reform’.The workshop, held at the WITS Institute for Social and Economic Research, had a distinguished panel of intellectual property practitioners and researchers: Dr Tim Burrell, Alison Dyer, Advocate Jonathan Berger and Achal Prabhala. The workshop was moderated by Marumo Nkomo, Director: Legal – International Trade & Investment at the Department of Trade and Industry.

South Africa is currently reforming its intellectual property law and policy landscape and as recently as 23 May 2018 the South African cabinet approved the Intellectual Property (IP) Policy of the Republic of South Africa- Phase 1. Though the policy is yet to be gazetted, it is a welcome development that government has taken a rather bold step towards law reform and policy in this area. The workshop saw a robust discussion that highlighted some of the key issues at stake when it comes to reforming intellectual property laws in South Africa, especially in the context of patents.

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The need to reform SA’s patent system to increase local innovation

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 20.45.03

As we await the finalisation of South Africa’s IP Policy Phase I (the 2017 draft is available here), the IP Unit’s latest publication ‘Innovation and Intellectual Property in South Africa: The Case for Reform’ seeks to contribute to the debate about the introduction of a substantive patent examination system in the country by providing some much-needed empirical evidence. To date, a comprehensive analysis of who patents what in SA is simply missing

For their report, the authors Dr. Andrew Rens and Jonathan Berger analysed more than 4,000 patents granted by the dti’s Companies and Intellectual Property Commission to South African individuals and bodies over the period January 2005 to July 2015, about 10% of those granted domestically to South African individuals and bodies. They show that currently, the South African patent landscape is characterised by easy grants of patents of dubious quality and value. According to the authors, their data strongly suggest that the existing deposit system in South Africa stifles rather than stimulates innovation – contrary to the argument of those defending the current system that our soft regulatory touch stimulates innovation and any departure from it would kill innovation. Thus, the introduction of a substantive examination system for patents, as proposed by the dti, is to be welcomed. It is worth noting that numerous countries and regions already have substantive patent examination systems in place, including the U.S., Europe, Brazil, India, China and Kenya. Continue reading

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