South Africa: The Draft IP Policy Document

Last Updated: 4 October 2013
Article by Natacha Rey

Most Read Contributor in South Africa, September 2018

The Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property, 2013 ('the Policy'), is an important document. That's because it provides an insight into how government is thinking about IP and where it should be headed. In a sense, it is a statement of intent and an opportunity for the public to have its say on IP.

The Policy covers a lot of ground, but unfortunately it isn't always very clear, and it has been criticised for this.  The Policy contains quite a bit of "big-picture stuff". There is much talk about public health, education and technology transfer. There's the claim that patent law must not restrict access to health care; and that copyright must not stand in the way of knowledge and education; and there's the statement that South Africa should not renounce patent sovereignty. There are also strong suggestions that South Africa should align itself with the developing world rather than the developed world when it comes to matters IP, and that developing countries should not always adopt the IP models of the West, saying that 'there is no empirical evidence that developing countries with low promotion of indigenous technologies or innovation are gaining benefits from the IP system.' There are even suggestions that innovation can be encouraged by ways other than IP, for example through government subsidies and prizes.

There's very little about registered designs in the Policy and as little about trade marks. However, there is a suggestion that the ambush marketing legislation that was used during the 2010 Football World Cup (and in fact even during the 2003 Cricket World Cup) should be extended to cover all large sports events.

There is a lot of talk about copyright. The Policy recommends against extending the term of protection beyond 50 years (this has already happened in many developed countries), and it suggests that royalty administration and collection be centralised in one state-run collecting society. It makes some fairly vague statements about allowing reverse engineering of software so that it can be adapted for local needs of creating 'broad exemptions for education, research and library use' and, more specifically, fair-use rights for internet users for the purposes of education and research. Before the Policy was even released there were reports in the press that it would adopt the WIPO Copyright Treaty and create 'encryption rights' – it's not clear to us where the Policy says this, but it is worth remembering that encryption devices are in common usage and there's nothing to stop people from using them. The WIPO treaty in fact simply provides that states must penalise the by-passing of encryption devices. 

The issue that has received the most attention - and will probably continue to do so - is the suggestion that the South African patent system should move from a deposit system to an examination system. This is certainly important. The deposit system that we have at the moment basically allows for the patenting of anything provided that the formalities are complied with. No examination takes place to see whether the patent in fact complies with various requirements laid down in the Patents Act in that it is for example, a 'new invention', does it involve an 'inventive step', and is it capable of being applied in trade, industry or agriculture. Nor is there any examination to establish whether the invention falls within any of the exclusions, for example a scientific theory, a method of doing business, or the presentation of information. These issues are only ever considered if someone applies to revoke (cancel) the patent in a court proceeding, and this generally only ever happens when someone is threatened by the patent - a patent infringement case is  often met with an application to revoke the patent.

The downside of the deposit system, of course, is that there could be many 'weak' or 'bad' patents on the register, and these patents could inhibit people from doing what they should be entitled to do. This is less likely to happen in a system where the patent application is examined to see whether it complies with the various requirements - a system that exists in much of the developed world. The Policy correctly recognises that examining patents requires a great deal of skilled manpower, and that there may be capacity problems in South Africa. It therefore suggests various options, such as getting universities and research institutions involved in the evaluation process and integrating government databases. Intriguingly, it also postulates some multi-faceted system comprising both deposit and examination.

The issue of patent examination is particularly topical in South Africa because there's been so much talk of the 'ever-greening' of patents. This relates to the fact that pharmaceutical companies are accused of sometimes extending their patents - and thereby keeping the generics at bay - by patenting slight modifications, for example the process of manufacture, or the dissolution profile. The issue was highlighted by the recent Glivec case in India, where India's highest court ruled that Novartis could not patent an improved version of its best-selling Glivec drug because it amounted to ever-greening. The South African government clearly believes that ever-greening will be less prevalent if patent applications are examined. 

As we said at the outset, the Policy can be seen as a statement of intent , or perhaps even something of a wish -list. It is of course quite possible that some of the suggestions made will never see the light of day. But it does suggest that there may be interesting times ahead for IP.

>

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions