Intellectual Property important for growth

Pretoria – South Africa regards the Intellectual Property (IP) system as an important policy instrument in promoting innovation, industrial development and economic growth, says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.

“Our National Development Plan (NDP) calls for greater emphasis on innovation, improved productivity and more intensive pursuit of a knowledge economy. We regard the IP system as an important policy instrument in promoting innovation, technology transfer, research and development, industrial development and more broadly – economic growth,” said the Minister.

The Minister was speaking at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) International Conference on Intellectual Property and Development, in Geneva.

Addressing the conference on Thursday, the Minister said South Africa has a long history of Intellectual Property Rights protection and as signatories of the World Trade Organisation, the country has adopted and implemented all its obligations under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

“As we review our IP policy, we are seeking to ensure that appropriate balances are struck in providing protection for innovation and ensuring that benefits are shared in society. In particular, we are interested in ensuring that the IPR regime in South Africa supports our wider development objectives and underpins our efforts at industrial development objectives,” explained the Minister.

In doing this, South Africa aims to harness the capabilities across the government and draw in expertise across society through a strengthened national consultative process, he said.

This approach has been taken in two recent initiatives – the first being South Africa’s ratification of the WTO paragraph 6 mechanism that allows the issuance of compulsory licenses for export of medicines to countries that lack pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity.

“As part of the future work to give greater effect to this effort, we will engage with our regional partners to make effective use of the regional waiver contained in the Paragraph 6 mechanism to augment what are relatively small markets by harnessing economies of scale,” he explained.

In addition, South Africa is now engaged in a process to strengthen the capacity of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) so that it is able in due course to undertake substantive examination of patent applications.

“For reasons of allocation of scarce resources, South Africa has traditionally used the ‘depository’ system in terms of which patent applications are examined to determine whether they meet the patentability criteria only if the patents are challenged in litigation.

“The work being done to capacitate our registry to conduct substantive examination is crucial if the patent system is to truly fulfil its intended purpose of effectively promoting innovation.”

Africa and Intellectual Property Protection

The Minister said South Africa has been working with the African Union (AU) towards the establishment of a Pan African Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO).

The objectives of PAIPO include encouraging a harmonisation of IP systems and establishing platforms for policy discussions on how IP systems can serve as a tool for economic, cultural, social and technological development of the continent.

“In a region exclusively comprised of developing countries and least developed countries, PAIPO aims to pursue a pro-development and balanced approach to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection.”