South Africa Leaning Toward Support Of Pan-African IP Office, Minister Says

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Johannesburg, South Africa – There are strong indications that South Africa may join – and lead the charge – in the establishment of the controversial Pan-African Intellectual Property Office (PAIPO).

Earlier this year Intellectual Property Watch confirmed that the heads of state of the African Union (AU), the regional body working on African integration, decided to proceed with the establishment of a Pan-African Intellectual Property Office, this despite critics questioning, among other things, the relevance and necessity of setting up a new body when two regional bodies already, namely the African  Regional Intellectual Property Office (ARIPO) and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriete Intellectuelle (OAPI).

Speaking to Intellectual Property Watch on the sidelines of this week’s three-day Africa IP conference in Johannesburg, South Africa Department of Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies did not deny South Africa’s future participation in the proposed new IP body for the continent.

South Africa and Nigeria have never joined the regional IP bodies ARIPO and OAPI in Africa.

When asked if South Africa would join PAIPO, the minister said that that decision was “in the process.”

“If we come together as African countries that will strengthen our position,” he said.

The Deputy Director General in the Department of Trade and Industry, Zodwa Ntuli, separately re-iterated the minister’s response on South Africa’s participation in PAIPO.

“Look, that’s in the process, we are still talking about these issues,” she said. “It is important for us to encourage co-ordination … and so whatever opportunities there are for us to do that we will take it.”

She added that she did not view the establishment of PAIPO as duplication of the efforts by ARIPO and OAPI.

“We are saying that there is a need for co-ordination. Internationally, we have structures like WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organization] where we do have issues discussed and debated,” Ntuli said. “But there is a need to take the co-ordination to different levels so you can look at it from the perspective that South Africa is a member of BRICS [emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa], and where we have IP matters that we would want to discuss with our BRICS partners, because we would want to understand what coordination we have in that respect.”

“If you look at Africa in general, you also need that co-ordination,” she said. “It does not mean duplication but you actually want to coordinate properly [and] discuss the issues that have common interest because of your own circumstances and economic level, you will want to coordinate at that level.

“I think all of the [existing] structures are important. We are happy that WIPO does have programmes especially capacity building that will also assist as we have these discussions on the continent,” said Ntuli.

Caroline Ncube, an Open A.I.R researcher at the University of Cape Town and vocal critic of PAIPO, has long questioned whether PAIPO would add any value to advancing IP issues on the continent given ARIPO and OAPI’s existence.

She said that if Nigeria and South Africa join PAIPO, the body would become a powerhouse.

Ncube said that given that the chair of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is South African, it would make the country’s participation in PAIPO an expectation.

Speculating on South Africa’s possible role in PAIPO, Ncube added that “South Africa is not a joiner but a leader.”

 

Linda Daniels may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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