IPR lacunae lamented


Not enough has been done to address intellectual property (IP) rights, says science and technology minister Naledi Pandor.

She says piracy has had a negative effect on SA, costing the country R540 million in 2006, ITWeb reports.

The Intellectual Property Rights Act, from the Publicly Funded Research and Development Bill, was signed earlier this year to increase innovation in the public sphere. However, Pandor said more still needs to be done.

During an intellectual property rights conference, last Friday, Pandor addressed government officials, academics and business leaders. She said one of the department’s priorities is to protect indigenous knowledge in order to drive innovation among local communities.

“We organised the department to incorporate the institutional mechanism; the intellectual property management offices, which will be available through the country; as well as working with communities to ensure there is the infrastructure available to them to create economic opportunity. It’s an area that we need to do much more in.”

Pandor added: “Our objective, as the department, is nothing less than a binding instrument for the protection of traditional knowledge, and genetic resources as we protect the benefits, which will accrue to the communities and source of this knowledge.

“The reason the Intellectual Property Rights Act was drafted was to offer protection to these communities that are the holders of this indigenous knowledge.”

According to Pandor, the government aims to promote innovation, economic development and growth in the knowledge-based sector, as well as improve SA’s competitiveness ranking.

“We will do everything we can to use intellectual property opportunities to put us in the leading ranks of innovation.”

Pandor added that increased protection for intellectual property rights will drive innovation, which will, in turn, create more jobs. She also called for more focus to be placed on the alternative energy sector.

Free Market Foundation director Eustace Davie called for a greater understanding by government to address the impact of the Internet and new technologies fuelling digital piracy and counterfeit goods.

“Innovation is a key economic development concept, and recognised as a way of addressing many of society’s challenges,” said Davie.

“These include economic growth, job creation, revitalising metropolitan areas, international competitiveness, global health, renewable energy and even climate change.”

According to a 2008 IDC study, sponsored by Business Software Alliance (BSA), a 10-point reduction in PC software piracy would deliver more than 1 200 new jobs, $70 million (R525 million) in tax revenue, and nearly $900 million (R7 billion) in economic growth in SA.

In addition, the BSA said the global counterfeit industry is valued at $500 billion (about R3.4 trillion) and has grown from being 7% of the total world trade in 2003, to 10% in 2005.