South African Trade Minister Davies: Election Result May Mean Fast Action On IP Policy 29/05/2014 by Linda Daniels for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Intellectual property pundits have welcomed South African President Jacob Zuma’s decision to retain Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies in the position following South Africa’s May general elections. And Davies this week signalled that completing the national intellectual property policy may be a top priority. Zuma announced his new cabinet this week, which featured the redeployment of some ministers to new portfolios, and also included the creation of portfolios headed up by newly appointed cabinet ministers. Davies has spent some time in government and in particular the Department of Trade and Industry, first as deputy minister of trade and industry from June 2005 until May 2009, when he was then appointed the Minister of Trade and Industry. Davies also previously held the position of chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Finance. A key issue for Davies in his return will be completing a national intellectual property policy that was put up for public comment last year. Davies: No Delay on IP Policy Davies confirmed to Intellectual Property Watchthat he wants to move on the draft IP policy stating that “my own interest is not to delay.” The draft policy has been six years in the making already and last year it underwent a public consultative process. Davies explained that the policy affects a number of government departments and that a task team is “looking at the comments (received) and are producing recommendations on the way to approach this.” Davies could not commit to a timeframe of when that process would be completed saying only: “I really have to get some sense of where they are at.” Davies also listed other items on his agenda during his latest tenure at the helm of DTI. “There are trade issues which will come to a head in the next few months with regards the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) with the US,” he said, “and the economic partnership agreement negotiation with the EU.” The purpose of the AGOA legislation is to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and to improve economic relations between the United States and the region. The Economic Partnership Agreements are a scheme to create a free trade area between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). Draft IP Policy The current draft IP policy was published by the Department of Trade and Industry in the government gazette in September 2013. The draft IP policy is available here [pdf]. South Africa does not currently have a general IP policy. The draft policy attempts to harmonise and coordinate the country’s IP concerns on both the national and international levels. The draft IP policy contains, amongst other things, a substantive patent review system. Public health advocates have noted and actively campaigned for government to move on the draft IP policy as fast as possible in order to make the patent review system a reality. Currently, South Africa has no patent review system. Other key features contained in the draft policy include that IP protection regimes must not contradict public health policies and that the two should be balanced; and that provision should be made in the law to facilitate the quick entry of generic competitors as soon as the patent has expired on a particular medicine. Advocates Hope for Fast Action on IP Policy Herman Blignaut, partner at IP law firm Spoor and Fisher, said he thought it was best to have kept Davies in the job for the sake of continuity. “I certainly welcome him staying there. He should know the portfolio well by now and it functions well.” Blignaut added that any issues that may present themselves in the department are issues that Davies is already familiar with. Meanwhile, health activist organisation the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said that with Davies’ reappointment, they would like the minister to act with more urgency on the draft IP policy. In a statement after Zuma’s announcement of his new-look cabinet, the TAC affirmed its support of Davies in the role. “Under the leadership of Minister Davies, the Department of Trade and Industry produced a draft policy on intellectual property that proposed a number of important changes to improve access to affordable medicines in the future,” it said. “The TAC will support Minister Davies in reforming South Africa’s patent laws to utilise the pro-public health safeguards provided in international law, in line with the Constitutional obligation to progressively realise the right to access healthcare.” “While we are critical of the length of time this process has taken to date,” they said, “we hope that the continuity in the Ministry means no further delays will occur.” [Update:] New Communications Ministry Separately, concerns have been raised over the new Communications Ministry, according to the group Right To Know. “The new-look Ministry of Communications, led by Faith Muthambi, will be responsible for both overarching communication policy and spreading government information, publicity and branding of the country abroad,” the group said in a statement. “By conflating communication policy and government propaganda the President is signaling an intention to ensure various institutions will be used to amplify government propaganda rather then to create a democratic communication system for all South Africans.” “Of particular concern,” the group said, “is Zuma’s announcement that the new Communications Ministry will be ‘formed out of’ the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA). These are all bodies which have degrees of statuary independence from the Executive. They all have critical mandates to defend and advance our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and access to information.” The group added: “We must now face the risk that the Ministry of Communications will be used to further weaken the regulatory capacity of Icasa and further undermine the already questionable independence of the SABC, all in service of creating a communication environment compliant to the needs of government messaging, rather than one which best serves the information needs of the people.” William New contributed to this report. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Linda Daniels may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."South African Trade Minister Davies: Election Result May Mean Fast Action On IP Policy" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.