Cape Town Conference Highlights Innovation, IP And Public Interest

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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – Some 350 experts from around the world are gathering here this week to discuss intellectual property rights and innovation as they relate to the public interest.

The Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest and the Open African Innovation Research (Open A.I.R.) Conference take place from 9-13 December, hosted by the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The event has five thematic tracks running throughout the week: user rights, medicines, enforcement, openness, and traditional knowledge. A wide range of issues will be addressed, such as development, appropriate technologies, informal sector, seed protection, publicly financed R&D, and a variety of ways of looking at the future of Africa and IP. There are threads that reach beyond Africa, such as a look at the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations from a public interest perspective.

Speakers represent all levels of government, academics and advocacy. They include: Fernando dos Santos (Director General of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization), Herman Ntchatcho (Senior Director, World Intellectual Property Organization), Marisella Ouma (Executive Director at the Kenya Copyright Board), Michael Geist (University of Ottawa, Canada), and Peter Drahos (Australian National University), and many others from around the world.

Two publications will be launched during the event: Innovation & Intellectual Property: Collaborative Dynamics in Africa, published by the UCT press, and Knowledge & Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future.

The first book contains case studies of innovators in Africa, drawn from evidence in a range of countries and cutting across numerous economic sectors. The second book looks at innovation over the next two decades, laying out three possible future scenarios: a world of “wireless engagement,” another where “informal is the new normal,” and a third that is “sincerely Africa.”

The week also will include a special screening of the internationally acclaimed documentary “Fire in the Blood” about the quest for making affordable antiretrovirals to fight HIV and AIDS available to the developing world.

Support for the conference comes from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Open Society Foundation, South Africa’s National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), the Shuttleworth Foundation, Google and others.


William New may be reached at

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