The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act, signed into law this month by President Jacob Zuma, would protect indigenous knowledge using current intellectual property systems, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies said.
He explained that the objectives of the Act were to bring indigenous knowledge holders into the mainstream of the economy and to improve the livelihoods of communities.
“The Act is providing a legal framework for protection of the rights of indigenous knowledge holders and empowers communities to commercialise and trade on indigenous knowledge [for the benefit of] the national economy,” Davies said.
He explained that the Act had come about as government realised that knowledge derived from working with communities was often protected by intellectual property systems without compensating and acknowledging the originators or knowledge holders.
Key interventions contained in the Act included prohibiting the registration of indigenous knowledge without consent or that was offensive to a particular public.
“The Act provides that business enterprises such as community trusts and cooperatives be formed to manage and protect the indigenous knowledge of communities,” he said, adding that it also catered for compensation for the use of intellectual property through the negotiation of a benefit-sharing agreement regime.
Meanwhile, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission would accredit certain institutions to adjudicate any dispute arising from the application of the Act.
“These interventions will be introduced in all domains of intellectual property and the findings of alternative dispute resolutions can be made an order of court upon application. [However], the High Courts will still have inherent jurisdiction to entertain any dispute pertaining to indigenous knowledge and intellectual property,” Davies concluded.