Innovation Asset Blog

Controversy over cultural IP protection in South Africa

South African President Jacob Zuma signed the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act (IPLAA) 2013 into law recently. The Act, the brainchild of the Department of Trade and Industry, updates several areas of the country's intellectual property regulations. It now protects historic cultural knowledge like folklore, performance art and designs. Though the idea of protecting indigenous knowledge through intellectual property measures has received support from many, including the World Intellectual Property Organization, critics of the IPLAA say it is too cumbersome to enforce and will cost too much money.

The IPLAA intends to extend existing intellectual property laws to cultural knowledge without contradiction. Many critics say this cannot be done.

"All IP is based on a policy which says you want to encourage creativity, so you give creators an incentive: exclusive control for a limited period, before the work becomes public domain," Dr. Owen Dean, chairman of intellectual property law at the University of Stellenbosch, told IT Web. "Indigenous knowledge is reversed: nothing is identifiably creative, and rights are awarded perpetually ... There is nothing in the law that requires the government to actually transfer the license revenue to the rights holders, The law turns indigenous knowledge into a national resource, with the government managing the rights."

Peter Ackerman

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.