International IP Treaties Bring Tension in Africa’s Homegrown Knowledge Governance 15/05/2017 by Munyaradzi Makoni 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)CAPE TOWN, South Africa — The belief that intellectual property promotes foreign direct investment and international trade has brought tension in African countries’ ability to eliminate trade barriers, and to ensure local governments are able to develop policies that respond to local needs, according to an extensive new analysis. Traditional knowledge is often caught up in international IP rules. South African cuisine with meats of wildlife and traditional sauces in the jars. Three IP experts, law professor Jeremy de Beer and Jeremiah Baarbé, juris doctor candidate, both at the University of Ottawa, and also Caroline Ncube, professor in the Department of Commercial Law, University of Cape Town, assessed the adoption of IP treaties in Africa over a 130-year period from 1885-2015. The paper was published on 5 May. “Our approach looks to the past and present in order to build a rich context for policymakers looking to the future,” they say. Working under the Open African Innovation Research network (Open AIR), the experts say internationally IP was more complex than the domestic aspects as it sought to protect resources across borders. Some 34 international treaties and agreements including African countries on copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, traditional knowledge, biodiversity, or genetic resources were analysed over four historic periods in the study. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) administers 26 of the treaties selected. Across Africa, governments are increasingly constrained by international IP law when locally tailoring approaches to knowledge governance. From 1885-1935 the researchers note that IP treaties were designed to extend the national IP policies of the colonial powers to reach as many markets as possible. IP treaties became a tool to control creative and industrial markets in the interest of European rights-holders. One rule was, colonial authors in the British Empire, before 1886 had to first publish their works in the United Kingdom in order to acquire copyright. Other colonial powers like Germany were more explicit in their discrimination with laws expressly barring natives from holding rights to IP. According to WIPO, the researchers say, by 1935 only three countries – Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia – had ratified international IP treaties with Morocco ahead of others having ratified all five treaties in force at the time. From 1936 to 1965 treaties were maintained in a neo-colonial response to independence. It was during decolonization when the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI), which eventually became WIPO, was concerned that newly independent African countries would abandon the international IP regime. It is also a time widely accepted that developing countries benefited from relaxed IP protections. Seminars in Africa were held around this time by a number of transnational organisations promoting robust IP protections as essential for economic prosperity. It ended with most newly independent countries declaring membership in the international IP regime shortly after gaining independence. From 1966 to 1995 the period was characterised by attempts to limit the influence of African countries on global IP policy, WIPO took over from BIRPI in 1970 as the custodian of the Berne and Paris conventions and related IP treaties. By 1995, the WIPO Convention achieved the highest African adoption of any treaty at the time, with 43 member countries. According to the study, the Paris Convention had the second-highest adoption rate, with 39 ratifying countries, while the Berne Convention had 35 adopting countries, but it was the period before the neighbouring World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) saw the number of IP treaties increase. African countries ratified 13 new treaties that addressed details of the industrial property and copyright regimes that were not specified in Paris or Berne, in this period, for a total of 26 treaties in force at the time. It’s noteworthy that African countries had limited involvement with the initial negotiations for these 13 new treaties as on average over seven African countries participated in forming each of these treaties. From 1996 to 2015 there was increased participation of African countries in the global economy leading commentators to say “Africa is rising. To correct the dependence of Africa on exporting resources and importing finished products there has been an international focus on access and benefit sharing of genetic resources, which led to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol as part of the UN Convention on Biodiversity. Many African innovators are now taking a collaborative approach to IP. The “130-year history of IP treaty adoption across Africa tells a colonial and neo-colonial story of the creation of a globalised IP system,” the experts concluded. The developed world imposed IP policies that benefited Western rights holders while limiting African participation in negotiating new treaties, they said, adding that, as a result, IP policies do not reflect the realities in many African countries, contributing to poor performance on global metrics of innovation. “A made-in-Africa approach to IP policy will lead to benefits in inclusive innovation and development,” the researchers suggested. Image Credits: Kwang 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 Munyaradzi Makoni may be reached at email@example.com."International IP Treaties Bring Tension in Africa’s Homegrown Knowledge Governance" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.