Tuesday, 27 May 2014

South Africa: Post elections and a new cabinet - where's the IP Policy?

Pres Zuma announcing the Cabinet 
Now that the elections have come and gone (7 May) and President Zuma has announced his new cabinet ( on 25 May - see infographic here) the country should be ready to return to seeing the IP Policy through. The main protagonists remain in place - Dr Aaron Motsoaledi retained his position in the Department of  Health and Dr Rob Davies has also retained his portfolio in the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI).



The DTI is the lead department in IP matters and has primary responsibility for the draft IP Policy. David Cochrane reported (here) that the DTI held a consultative workshop on the IP policy for legal practitioners on 9 October 2013 and then indefinitely postponed a subsequent workshop which would have been open to all stakeholders which was planned for 15 October 2013. Perhaps one of the first things the department will now do is to finally hold this workshop. As Afro-IP readers know, Dr Motsoaledi, has had a lot to say about the draft IP Policy's proposed patent law reforms in the context of health and treatment access (For example, see here and here). His stance on these matters is a matter of public record.

There are some changes in  the IP related departments of Science & Technology (DST) and Arts & Culture (DAC). Mr Derek Hanekom, who was the Minister of Science & Technology from 2012 - 2014 has been replaced with Naledi Pandor (who held this portfolio from May 2009 - October 2012).  During her previous stint at Science & Technology, Minister Pandor had oversight over the creation of the National IP Management Office and before that the Technology Innovation Agency. The DST was also involved in IP training via the WIPO Summer Schools. It also created a number of research chairs at universities. (For details see her budget vote 2011 here) All of these activities are directly impacted by IP. Indeed, the IPRs from Publicly Funded Research Act, 2008 was spearheaded by the DST (see here and here for an overview of the Act).

The new Minister of Arts & Culture is Mr Nathi Mthethwa (who was previously the Minister of Police). He replaces Mr Paul Mashatile. This department's Revised White Paper on Arts, Culture & Heritage released in June 2013 (available here) states that " Issues of patent and copyrights will be addressed in the light of current information technology. For example music can be downloaded from the Internet for free resulting in artists losing revenue. DAC will therefore ensure that there is an updated legislation on Intellectual Property Rights" (at p56).  Last year the DAC co-hosted a Consultative workshop on IP and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances with the University of Cape Town's IP Unit in Cape Town  (see here).Clearly the department is active and intends to be involved in IP law reforms. It remains to be seen what the new Minister will have to say about the draft IP Policy.

It is probable (and should be mandatory, in this Leo's opinion) that each of the above related departments has submitted their comments on the draft IP policy. Once the comments received by the DTI on the draft policy are made public (as they should, says this Leo) we will have an opportunity to view the official position taken by the Department of Health, DST and DAC. 

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