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    Speakers Outline Ideas For Africa To Find Appropriate IP Policies

    Published on 1 March 2013 @ 12:49 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    Johannesburg, South Africa – Africa is still held captive by colonial borders and has failed to collectively leverage benefit-sharing agreements that result from multinationals’commercial pursuit of indigenous knowledge, said speakers at the Africa IP conference this week.

    The Africa IP conference was held in Johannesburg from 25-27 February. Presentation from the event are available here.

    Rachel Wynberg, natural scientist and environmental policy analyst at the University of Cape Town, said that countries that lagged behind with intellectual property laws are being overlooked by companies eager to show their ethical side when entering into benefit-sharing agreements with communities over indigenous knowledge that they would want to commercially exploit.

    Rachel Wynberg said: “What happens when there is shared knowledge and resources across countries? Companies are targeting countries where they know they won’t have biopiracy connotations.”

    Wynberg proposed that regional benefit-sharing arrangements be explored amongst African countries, given that indigenous knowledge is often not strictly contained within country borders.

    She used the example of the indigenous San community in southern Africa who after reaching a landmark agreement with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) benefitted from a share of royalties from potential drug sales of an appetite suppressant drug derived from the species of Hoodia. The succulent plants are indigenous to southern Africa and were used by the San to stave off hunger and thirst. Wynberg pointed out that while the case represented a regional benefit sharing arrangement for all San communities in Southern Africa, it was by no means a significant windfall.

    “I have to say that there are not many practical examples of communities financially benefitting (from benefit sharing agreements with companies),”Wynberg said.

    Edward Hammond, a biopiracy expert based in the United States, added: “National sovereignty applies to generic resources in all cases. In many cases genetic resources have traditional knowledge attached to them. The key there is to have regional cooperation to address cross-border sharing of genetic resources.”

    Both Hammond and Wynberg warned of the threat of biopiracy in Africa where genetic resources are being pillaged in a more underhanded fashion by big multinational companies.

    Biopiracy refers to biological materials, typically rooted in indigenous knowledge, that get used by others for profit, without permission from and with little or no compensation or recognition to the indigenous people.
    While the “cowboy” pillaging days of genetic resources of the colonial era and the era between the 1940s and 1970s are over, modern day biopiracy still takes place, the two experts explained.

    Hammond said that contemporary biopiracy typically involves intellectual property and a more complex approach to accessing to resources which would include “intermediaries” such as academia and aid projects and repurposing genetic resources “to ends not explicit at the time of access.”

    “Another route of biopiracy is the professor … collecting species for academic or scientific research. In the developed world, professors are not able to work in that way anymore,” he said.

    Hammond described a case of an American professor who had never signed a benefit-sharing agreement yet a number of his discoveries have been taken up by the pharmaceutical companies.

    “There’s a wilful ignorance to the traditional knowledge associated with the use of these plants and then claimed as an invention,” Hammond said.

    He asked delegates to consider these questions: “How does the scope of patentable subject matter in the biological sciences and biopiracy relate? What role does the patent system have in detection of biopiracy?”

    Wynberg added that bilateral agreements are being negotiated by companies with communities who were already organised.

    “This is leading to exclusivity and is monopolistic,” he said. “Companies are using benefit sharing to gain monopolies over trade. These are very complex issues, the role of traditional authorities is all not what it should be.”

    The issue of applying intellectual property rights to indigenous knowledge, in order to protect holders of this knowledge from exploitation, while at the same time leveraging it for development was a vibrant thread of debate throughout the conference, which was themed “intellectual property and economic growth in Africa.”

    However, at the start of the conference, Professor Carlos Correa, special advisor for the intergovernmental South Centre, warned against the oversimplified assumption that the theme of the conference might suggest and recommended flexibility in drawing-up national IP policies.

    Correa told delegates during the opening plenary of the conference that historical evidence has shown little or no support for the view that intellectual monopoly is an effective method of increasing innovation.

    Quoting a 2010 survey (Hu AGZ & Png IPL ‘Patent Rights and Economic Growth: Evidence from Cross-Country Panels of Manufacturing Industries’ [2010]), Correa highlighted the finding that said “to date, there is no robust empirical evidence that stronger patent rights indeed stimulate growth.”

    Meanwhile, Herman Ntchatcho, senior director, department for Africa and special projects, in the Development Sector at the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) explained the organisation’s Development Agenda in assisting least developed countries in putting together an intellectual property strategy that would aid development.

    Ntchatcho said in his presentation that, in general, intellectual property is not accorded a prominent place in the national political and economic agendas of African countries.

    However, he listed several African countries that have already adopted IP policies and plans: Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles and Zambia.

    He mentioned two countries that have been receiving WIPO’s technical assistance in the framework of WIPO’s Development Agenda projects – Mali and Tanzania.

    Ntchatcho said that the regional body OAPI, the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle, had recently invited its member states to engage in the formulation of national intellectual property strategies – “a process in which it has committed to cooperate closely with WIPO.”

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

     

    Comments

    1. Top 10 Weekly IP & Patent News Update - Article One Partners says:

      [...]  Africa IP Conference Gives Opportunity to Outline Suggested IP Policies – Intellectual Property Watch [...]

    2. This week in review … IP Watch article on TK at the Africa IP Conference | Traditional Knowledge Bulletin says:

      [...] Speakers Outline Ideas for Africa to Find Appropriate IP Policies IP Watch, 1 March 2013 [...]

    3. African Ministers Focus On IP Role In Innovation For Development; Less On Flexibilities | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/01/speakers-outline-ideas-for-africa-to-find-appropriate-ip-policies… [...]

    4. At US-Led Workshop, African Stakeholders Call For “Home Grown IP Agenda” | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/01/speakers-outline-ideas-for-africa-to-find-appropriate-ip-policies… [...]

    5. Diverging Views On IPR Protection Needs In Africa Emerge At IP Workshop | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/01/speakers-outline-ideas-for-africa-to-find-appropriate-ip-policies… [...]

    6. Meetings On IP And Innovation In Africa Open In Tanzania | Intellectual Property Watch says:

      [...] A few weeks ago, the South African government organised a development-oriented meeting on African IP in Johannesburg (IPW, Development, 1 March 2013). Its meeting focussed less on protection and more finding appropriate policies to generate local IP and innovation. http://www.ip-watch.org/2013/03/01/speakers-outline-ideas-for-africa-to-find-appropriate-ip-policies… [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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