Tag Archive | traditional medicine

Intellectual property law still in limbo

Date of implementation still not fixed….

legalargThe contentious Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill in South Africa, aimed at the protection of local and traditional knowledge amending existing IP law and signed by President Jacob Zuma as an Act, has still not come into effect as law. It was passed in the National Assembly some time before the fourth Parliament closed and was expected as law in the first half of 2014.

The delay may partly be as a result of consideration by the State Law Advisor regarding further comments on the proposals which have emerged since the Bill was hammered through the National Assembly using the then hefty ANC majority.

The Act, as it now is and which was commonly referred to as the Traditional Knowledge Bill as it progressed through Parliament, made provision for the recognition of indigenous knowledge as a further aspect of intellectual property.   The Act amends all major South African intellectual property laws such as the South African Performers’ Protection Act; the Copyright Act; the Trade Marks Act and the Designs Act.

In process

The signing of the Bill, however, does not mean that the Act is ready to go on the statute book or is promulgated, since the regulations are being drafted and are yet to be finalised by the department of trade and industry (DTI), or so it appears.

Such regulations do not require approval by Parliament.   However, in such as a case as this, DTI could well ask the new Parliament to approach the public to comment on them and debate the results, since DTI is working in areas of the finer aspects of complicated intellectual property law.

One case stands out which is protection of the rooibos tea trade but traditional practices and output in the form of traditional knowledge

Support of chiefs

President Zuma had previously declined to sign the Bill because of a lack of consultation with the National House of Traditional Leaders, a body composed of delegates from the provincial structures. Whether this was an election ploy or a genuine wish to embrace traditional healers was not made clear.

The Act is still very much disliked by a number of professional and academic legal experts and, at one point; this was expressed in an alternative Bill tabled by the Democratic Alliance as opposition expressing the view that the DTI version was unenforceable.

Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry Wilmot James described the current Bill as “a cumbersome and fundamentally flawed law”.

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