New law to guard intellectual property

16 January 2009

President Kgalema Motlanthe has signed into law the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research Bill, which clarifies the ownership of intellectual property rights resulting from publicly funded research and development in South Africa.

The specific objective of the legislation, which was first published in the Government Gazette in December, is that intellectual property emanating from publicly financed research and development should be commercialised for the benefit of all South Africans, and be protected from appropriation.

“For this reason, the law provides for an enabling environment for intellectual property creation, protection, management and commercialisation,” the Department of Science and Technology said in a statement this week.

The department says that the country’s knowledge-generating institutions will now have clear guidance on how best to manage intellectual property, as well as how to ensure that publicly financed intellectual property gets out into the marketplace and is used.

“Key to this, the law is aimed at facilitating the creation of new knowledge that is derived from public funding and to secure this knowledge in the form of intellectual property rights, including, but not limited to patents, for intellectual property that could have economic and social benefits,” the department says.

Support will be provided by the National Intellectual Property Management Office and the Intellectual Property Fund, as well as offices of technology transfer at the institutions.

Technology innovation

The new law is closely linked to the Technology Innovation Agency Act, which provides for the establishment of a public entity to finance individuals and other organisations commercialising their technological innovations and inventions.

The department hopes to establish the agency this year, in order to integrate the management of disparate technological innovation initiatives that are still at a developmental stage.

“All these initiatives are part of the department’s larger Ten-Year Innovation Plan, aimed at driving South Africa toward a knowledge-based economy, in which the production and dissemination of knowledge leads to economic benefits,” the department says.

SAinfo reporter

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