Monday, 12 September 2011

Stellenbosch IP Conference - Part 2

Part 2 for those who could make the International IP Conference in Stellenbosch. For Part 1 checkout the link here.

Dr Frederick Mostert, whose job in London is to look after the IP for luxury company Richemont (founded by Rupert) and son of the late Judge Mostert, paid tribute to his dad and thanked the University for creating the Chair, describing it as "a great honour for the family". Don Macrobert then regaled us with tales of the Ruperts and their creation of brands in the tobacco and drinks industries under the title  "Drs Johann and Anton Rupert - The Doyens of South African Intellectual Property" - a title that nobody (even ardent TK proponents) dared question.

These two talks were important in contextualising the new Chair and unwittingly telling of its challenges - for example, Richemont's IP is held and run outside of RSA. This fact was driven home in the next talk by Antonio Campinos, OHIM's president, as he told us that RSA based companies file less than .05%! of EU trade marks. The statistic obviously excludes big filers from homegrown giants like SABMiller and Richemont, and even our re-engineered Portuguese chicken favourite, Nandos, whose international trade marks are held offshore. So, OHIM's stats are not a true reflection of South Africa's place in the international IP community but one wonders how South Africa can develop as a true hub for innovation when the related IP (as well as associated R&D centres, revenue streams etc) are likely to move away.

Antonio's talk was refreshing. One forgets that OHIM's huge success comes at a time when most companies are struggling. It really is a beacon - paperless, profitable and increasingly, influential. Their statistics reveal "shifts in power" from West to East and the (re-)emergence of Germany within Europe as a top filer. Campinos also highlighted a significant rise in counterfeiting and music piracy, which neatly lead to the next talk, from WIPO's Louise Van Greunen, director of WIPO’s building respect for IP division.

WIPO’s commitment to analysing the different methods of stopping counterfeiting endorses a multi-faceted approach which seems impressive. Louise spoke of a number of different initiatives including an IP outreach program that they are involved in. She stressed that Governments and companies have a “social responsibility” toward stopping it. Touché. For further comment, please see WTR's post here.

Next up was Mr Xuemin Chen from China. It is difficult to address an audience after two speakers have intimated that most counterfeit product comes from your home country. Part 3 of this report will explain how he fared. 

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