Thursday 10 November 2011


Dean savages poorly-conceived TK law as "mindless arrogance"

It is no exaggeration to say that that the venerable Professor Owen Dean is "Mr Africa" when it comes to intellectual property law. Owen has been around a long time: he is one of the most seasoned experts on IP matters within Africa. Indeed, he is older than all but two (Ethiopia and Liberia) of the independent nations in that continent.  Accordingly, when Owen says something it's worth taking careful note.

"The Mad Hatter In Wonderland: South Africa’s New TK Bill" is the title of a piece which Owen has just authored for the highly-respected Geneva-based Intellectual Property Watch.  You can read it in full here.  If you have no time to do so, do at least take note of this:
"So, the Department of Trade and Industry (“DTI”) has ... caused the South African Government to pass the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill (the so-called “Traditional Knowledge Bill”) despite vociferous objections from all quarters. It has rushed headlong into terrain where no angel would venture through acute trepidation. It has entered Wonderland and assumed the role of the Mad Hatter.

... By seeking to protect traditional knowledge as species of copyright, designs, etc. and to attempt to apply the existing laws in these areas to it, it has purported to create rights which are simply incapable of being enforced.  ...An enormous edifice of bureaucracy, councils, funds, trusts, databases and registration systems is to be created at inordinate expense and all to no avail since the system is not capable of being operated. What an exercise in futility and a waste of innumerable hours on the part of stakeholders, Government Departments and the Parliamentary process!

...  The IP profession, academics, the judiciary, the intellectual property industries, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) are but a few of those that have tried to show the DTI the folly of its ways. Even a Regulatory Impact Assessment commissioned in 2009 by the State President opined that the legislation was ill advised and that, apart from any other considerations, the cost of implementing it would outweigh any possible benefits that might flow from it. Alas, the DTI has been undaunted and unwavering in its purpose. It takes a special form of mindless arrogance to shrug off, nay be totally impervious to, such a strong body of informed opinion. Such obduracy is difficult to fathom ...".



Subscribe via email (you'll be added to our Google Group)


Write comments
11 November 2011 at 07:06 delete

Excellent article.

Recently I came across this site of the IP Hall of Fame Academy which has 40 inductees dating as far back as Victor Hugo. I wouldn't be surprised if Prof. Dean becomes the first African to included on this prestigious list.

Here's the link: