Wednesday 13 February 2013

Darren Olivier

RSA launches its "Africa IP Forum"

Afro Leo received a flyer by email from the South African Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) promoting its Africa IP Forum that is to be held over two days at the end of this month in Johannesburg. The agenda* is heavily slanted in favour of developmentalists. You can register here but there is a limit of 500 attendees, so hurry.

You may remember the failed attempt by US based CLDP to sponsor and arrange its Africa IP Forum in 2012 in conjunction with the DTI. Their agenda received significant criticism on grounds that it  was too focused on what may broadly be termed "western interests" (you can follow the debate on this blog by searching "Africa IP Forum").

As a result the forum was stillborn, provoking consternation. It was the first time a much needed pan African conference was to be arranged on African soil to address issues and promote the interests of IP on the continent. But CLDP appeared to underestimate local critics. Some had understood that DTI had agreed with the criticism although the DTI did not comment at the time.

The CLDP changed its tack and made this known to the IP community at INTA in May last year. They teamed up with Kenya's Anti-Counterfeit Agency (a strange bedfellow given the anti-enforcement sentiment highlighted by the previous effort) and stated that they would help launch a new Africa IP Forum, planning for which would continue at a Tanzania meeting a few months later. 

With RSA's DTI now launching its own Africa IP Forum it seems obvious where they stood on CLDP's original attempt. Assuming that CLDP is not somehow involved behind the scenes,  it is ironic then that the DTI have used the same name, descriptive as it may be, for a concept that appears to have been nurtured by CLDP. Indirectly, it would illustrate exactly why the CLDP (and/ or its funders) may have been so keen on an enforcement agenda for its Africa IP forum in the first place

The DTI, with its pro development agenda, has also disclosed the position of RSA's government toward IP in general, in case there was any doubt. This position has shifted over the past decade from one that supported IP in a form that exists in developed countries to another that is considerably less keen to pander to big users of the IP system and more keen to promote exceptions and limitations. The recent frustrated views of Harms and Dean who sat on the advisory committee to the Government or were otherwise influential for many years, give us an another indication of just how strong and steadfast the position of RSA's Government appears to be.

Meanwhile, CLDP is not giving up. Their Upcoming Event's tab describes a gathering in Tanzania in March 2013 of a nascent African Intellectual Property Group:

"an Africa wide umbrella organization of African IP officials, industry, and IP stakeholders - to bring East, West, and Southern African IP officials and private sector together to determine practical and innovative solutions (both national and regional) to the challenges posed by counterfeiting and piracy (AL - sounds like an enforcement agenda), as well as effective utilization of  IP rights to foster innovation and economic growth in Africa".

The race is on.

*the Africa IP Forum agenda can be obtained from or by clicking on the "agenda" link which has been updated since this post was published.

Darren Olivier

Darren Olivier

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Write comments
William New
14 February 2013 at 15:43 delete

Hi and thanks for this interesting post. But our understanding has been that what you have posted as the "agenda" is just a "suggested" possible speaker list and may bear little resemblance to the actual confirmed speaker list (which we would be interested to see). A person on the suggested list whom I contacted said she had never heard of this conference and had not been contacted.

Afro Leo
14 February 2013 at 17:39 delete

Hi William, thank you. We registered for the forum and the reply confirming the reservation stated "Please find attached a draft agenda and the map to Gallagher Estate". So, yes it is a draft but the Forum is also less than a fortnight away. AL