Author Archives: tobiasschonwetter

Multilateral Matters #14: WIPO Decides to Hold Two Diplomatic Conferences no later than 2024

wendland_wendby Professor Wend Wendland, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town

Multilateral Matters
An occasional blog on international developments related to intellectual property, innovation, development  and public policy



On July 21, 2022, the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) decided that, by 2024, two diplomatic conferences should take place, one on a proposed new Design Law Treaty, and the other on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge (TK).

Diplomatic conferences are held to negotiate and adopt or revise multilateral treaties and conventions.

This decision was as unexpected as it is momentous.

Negotiations among member countries on both subjects have been deadlocked for many years, on design law in the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) and on genetic resources and associated TK in the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC).

What are the substantive issues concerned? What was decided exactly? And what are some of the implications of the decision taken?

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Multilateral Matters #13: What happened to the IP Waiver? Reflecting on the shortcomings of pro-access initiatives for COVID-19 healthcare

1628187600083by guest contributor Dr Bonginkosi Shozi, Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Practical Ethics, UC San Diego, and Honorary Research Fellow, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Multilateral Matters
An occasional blog on international developments related to intellectual property, innovation, development  and public policy


In May of 2020, just over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and before a publicly available vaccine, I was invited by Professor Wendland to write a blog post on what was, at that point, the most promising initiative for advancing access to healthcare products necessary for responding to the ongoing public health crisis: a voluntary pool of exclusive rights on COVID-19–related subject matter (see Multilateral Matters #6 “What can African Countries do to Make Sure they Have Affordable Access to a COVID-19 Cure?”).

The global calls in support of a voluntary pool led to the launching of the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), which was endorsed by 45 World Health Organization (WHO) Member States.[1] The operation of this initiative was supported by the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) – an organization dedicated to advancing access to life-saving medicines in low-to-middle income countries by facilitating voluntary licensing and patent pooling.

The widespread support the voluntary pool received raised the hopes of many that it would help secure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines which were, at that point, still in development. Ultimately, these hopes were in vain. The first wave of vaccines received approval in December of 2020. In the year that followed, high-income countries were able to procure a sufficient supply of vaccines to vaccinate 75-80% of their populations while low-income countries struggled to secure access to and distribute vaccines, leading to less than 10% of their populations being vaccinated.[2] The so-called global ‘vaccine apartheid’ has persisted into the present day, with massive inequalities in access to COVID-19 healthcare products (including vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics).

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Multilateral Matters #9: The Marrakesh Treaty and the Accessible Books Consortium: What Lessons for Successful Intellectual Property Multilateralism?

Charleneby guest contributor Charlene Tsitsi Musiza

Multilateral Matters

An occasional blog on international developments related to intellectual property, innovation, development and public policy

Preface by Adjunct Professor Wendland

Multilateralism has produced few successes in recent years, including in the domain of international intellectual property (IP) rule-making. While coordination among countries on technical standards for IP administration is easier, collaboration in agreeing multilateral responses to substantive legal and policy challenges has become more and more difficult. Yet, in 2013, member countries of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) adopted a treaty in the area of access to copyright works for the visually impaired, the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled[i] (Marrakesh Treaty). Given the prevailing difficulties in multilateralism, what were the conditions and factors that made this agreement possible? To explore this question further, I invited Charlene Tsitsi Musiza, a PhD candidate from Zimbabwe, to describe the treaty briefly and examine the process that led to its adoption.

When one thinks “multilateralism”, one usually thinks of formal international conventions and treaties like the Marrakesh Treaty. However, collaboration platforms are increasingly features of the IP ecosystem. They may also serve as vehicles for multilateral cooperation, by facilitating exchanges of experiences and information, connecting innovators with innovation seekers, improving conditions for creators or directly supporting the implementation of conventions and treaties. One such example, which Charlene also describes, is the Accessible Books Consortium (the ABC platform), a public-private platform which complements the Marrakesh Treaty.

Over to Charlene.

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Apply now: Student Research Assistant Positions in the IP Unit

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 16.36.20 PMThe IP Unit is looking for outstanding LL.B., LL.M. and Ph.D. students at UCT to join our team as student research assistants for 6 months, beginning 15 June 2021. 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; cowriting peer reviewed articles and media materials; co-presenting findings; and managing the activities of a unit 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 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 for up to 35 hours per month at an hourly rate of R98 (LLB), R139 (LLM), or R144 (PhD). If the campus is closed, remote working options can be negotiated.

If you are interested in applying for this opportunity, please provide – via email to Open AIR Project Manager Nan Warner at – a curriculum vitae, copies of your qualification certificates and a covering letter outlining your qualifications/experience and how they would support our work. The deadline for applications is 1 June 2021. The full advertisement can be found here.

Multilateral Matters #8: Intellectual Property and Indigenous Names, Words and Symbols: Getting it Right for Communities, Companies and Consumers

wendland_wendby Wend Wendland, Adjunct Professor, Department of Commercial Law, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town,

Multilateral Matters

An occasional blog on international developments related to intellectual property, innovation, development and public policy

Key points

Indigenous names, words, symbols and other indications are often used by companies to brand their goods and services: when this is done without the consent of the Indigenous People, it can cause offence and be derogatory, it can mislead consumers and it can deprive Indigenous Peoples of economic benefits.

Sometimes Indigenous Peoples themselves make proactive use of the intellectual property (IP) system to register their own indications as trademarks, collective or certification marks, or geographical indications.

Mostly, companies do not set out intentionally to misappropriate Indigenous indications. There are a few concrete steps that companies, communities and IP offices could take to avoid inadvertent misappropriations and the erroneous grant of IP rights.

There are legislative measures in a few countries aimed at preventing the registration of trademarks that falsely suggest a connection to or may offend an Indigenous People.

Terms such as “Redskins”, “Braves” and “Chiefs” are not Indigenous terms as such but, when used by sports teams and others, can be racist slurs and cause harm and injury to Indigenous Peoples. In the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, public pressure and sponsor and investor dissatisfaction, rather than trade mark litigation, have recently caused several sports teams in the United States of America (the USA) to abandon names they have used for decades.

Mutually-beneficial and equitable win-win collaborations between Indigenous Peoples and companies could benefit communities, companies and consumers alike. This would be “getting it right”.

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CopyrightX:UCT (online!) – applications for 2021 now open

copyxThe IP Unit and the iNtaka Center for Law & Technology are pleased to again present a CopyrightX affiliated course in 2021 – this time presented remotely on Zoom. 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. 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 Klein 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. Eight contact sessions will take place on Wednesdays between 17 February 2021 and 21 April 2021. The online 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 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 on Zoom.

Applications are open between now and 24 January 2021.  Successful applicants will be notified in early February 2021.

For more info and to apply click here.

The ‘Madagascar cure’ for Covid-19 puts traditional medicine in the spotlight

Charlene By Charlene Musiza– first published on AfronomicsLAW

Traditional medicine and Covid-19

Mystery has surrounded what is contained in CVO, the packaging does not specify the ingredients, but it is said to contain artemisia, a plant that is known to alleviate malaria symptoms. In an interview with France 24 and Radio France International (RFI) the President of Madagascar said the medicine was composed of 62% artemisia, and a mix of herbs derived from the traditional knowledge of the Malagasy.

CVO has been criticised for the lack of scientific evidence of its safety and quality. The Madagascar Academy of Medicine issued a statement that no scientific evidence for the medicine had been established and there was risk to damaging the health, particularly of children. The practice is to undertake research and approve traditional medicine in line with international standards, that is research protocol, tests and clinical trials. Madagascar has so far not presented any scientific evidence to back up its claims. Aware of this, the President of Madagascar said there was a distinction between clinical observations and clinical trials and lauded the success of CVO based on the recovery of patients as clinical observations, done in accordance with WHO guidelines.

Madagascar, however, is not the first to use traditional medicine to treat Covid-19, in Asia countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have been using herbal remedies. In China and South Korea, the governments have issued guidelines for herbal treatments for the different stages of the disease. They outline the herbs, herbal formulae and composition of the various remedies, some with antiviral and/or anti-inflammatory properties. China also used traditional medicine before to fight the SARS and H1N1 influenza epidemics, and some research has now shown a high efficacy of Chinese medicine in the prevention of SARS. But just like with CVO, the Chinese medicines have been challenged on the lack of scientific evidence.

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The new Open AIR Research Report. Scaling Innovation: How Open Collaborative Models Help Scale Africa’s Knowledge-Based Enterprises

Screenshot 2020-06-16 at 11.37.58(this post was first published on the Open AIR website)

Global discussions often repeat the need for African businesses to “scale-up” in order for the continent to experience rapid economic growth that is truly “homegrown.” This is especially the case for knowledge-based businesses, which are essential in the modern global economy. Clarity as to what is meant by scaling-up and how African businesses can and should do this, however, is often lacking.

Drawing from more than 20 case studies of open, collaborative innovation in Africa, Open AIR has identified numerous dimensions of, and approaches to, enterprise-scaling. These case study findings are the core of Open AIR’s newest report, Scaling Innovation: How Open Collaborative Models Help Scale Africa s Knowledge-based Enterprises. This report, draws on research conducted since 2015 in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, and South Africa.

The report shows there are four scaling “archetypes” that are frequently present in African knowledge-based enterprises:

  • scaling by expanding coverage;
  • scaling by broadening activities;
  • scaling by changing behaviour; and
  • scaling by building sustainability.

The report then gives detailed accounts and research findings from our five years of case studies, through the lens of this four-component taxonomy. These case studies reflect the range of knowledge-based businesses that are already present across the continent, such as:

  • footwear and textile enterprises operating in informal-sector clusters in Addis Ababa;
  • a beadworking and craft collective in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa;
  • vanilla-growers in Mukono District, Uganda;
  • micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Botswana;
  • fishers in South Africa’s Western Cape Province;
  • maker communities, including FabLabs, in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya, and South Africa;
  • Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry;
  • Indigenous enterprises growing medicinal plants and practicing traditional healing in South Africa’s rural Bushbuckridge area; and
  • startups and established enterprises operating in technology hubs in Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa.

By viewing these enterprises’ scaling efforts through the lens of the four-component taxonomy, the report offers unique insights into the motivations and actions of these enterprises. The report also finds that there are clear challenges African enterprises face when trying to scale. We caution that scaling must always be pursued with a clear awareness of its complexities. In addition, we highlight the ways in which African enterprises’ knowledge governance systems are often intertwined with their approaches to scaling, impacting these enterprises’ abilities to be socially and economically inclusive.

The report’s overarching aim is to illuminate scaling’s profound dynamism and complexity in African innovation settings. Such research is critical for the continent’s innovators, small enterprises, researchers, academics, private-sector actors, civil society players, and policymakers.

Postdoc opportunity at the IP Unit – apply now!

OOHlogoThe IP Unit invites applications for a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the area of Intellectual Property Law. The selected fellow will primarily work on one of our projects: One Ocean Hub. The One Ocean Hub is a community of scholars from 22 leading international Universities and Research Centres from the UK, South Africa, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, the South Pacific and the Caribbean, led and hosted by the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. Broadly, this full-time fellowship is intended to support the One Ocean Hub project by contributing towards the understanding of various intellectual property aspects related to ocean exploration, exploitation and management. The initial tenure of the fellowship is for one year, from 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021. If the start date for this position is affected either by the candidate being under COVID-19- related travel restrictions or the campus being closed, remote working options can be negotiated. Further details about this opportunity are available here. The deadline for applications is 15 June 2020.

IP Unit co-hosts Professor Ruth Okediji’s seminar on Why Decolonisation of IP Matters

image3On 8 August, the IP Unit had the immense pleasure of welcoming highly acclaimed Harvard Professor Ruth Okediji – Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center – for a seminar on why the decolonisation of intellectual property matters. The seminar at UCT was co-hosted by the IP Unit, the South African Research Chair in Intellectual Property, Innovation and Development, Recreate South Africa and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) at American University in Washington, DC. The well-attended event was opened by the law faculty’s dean Professor Danwood Chirwa, and Professor Okediji’s talk was preceded by remarks from PIJIP’s Professor Sean Flynn. A brief write-up about the event can be found on the SARChI chair’s website, and a video of the proceedings is available here.