A tale of two bills: protection of traditional knowledge in South Africa

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness  …it was the spring of hope… we had [two bills] before us…” (apologies to Charles Dickens, A tale of two cities)

South Africa’s efforts at creating an appropriate legal framework continue, with a second Bill (draft Protection of Traditional Knowledge Bill) having been recently published for public comment. The course of the first bill (IP Laws Amendment Bill No. 8B of 2010 (IPLAB)) through parliament is outlined here by Cobus Jooste. The co-existence of the two Bills presents the opportunity to compare them with each other, which I have done in relation to some aspects of the bills in a  submission to parliament.

Both bills ought to be viewed in the light of recent developments nationally, regionally and globally. Nationally, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) is considering the merits of sui generis legislation according to its briefing to a parliamentary committee in July 2012. It  hosted a workshop on 17-20 April 2013 that considered this issue further (see p3 of the programme).  If the DST’s investigations merit it,  there may very well be a third bill in the offing soon (be still my fluttering heart!) Regionally ARIPO’s Swapkomund Protocol is very important as South Africa shares borders with ARIPO member states and some traditional communities extend across national borders.  Globally WIPO ‘s IGC continues to wrestle with this issue and its 24th session is currently underway (22-26 April 2013, see meeting documents).

I hope that the comments and debates that are spurred by the publication of the second Bill will take these developments into account and will be such that, in the future, we can look back to 2013 and say ‘it was the best of times, we had two bills before us which we considered wisely and used to craft a good law for the protection of TK in South Africa

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