Johannesburg - The potential effect on investor confidence of amendments to intellectual property legislation must be heeded, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) said on Thursday.
“This is because IP (intellectual property) is by its very nature forward-looking, and needs to continue to consider future scenarios,” Sacci said in a statement.
“So whereas it may seem tempting to impose restrictions on IP rights due to public interest considerations, any such intrusion is likely to significantly damage the origination of future IP in South Africa.”
This in turn would mean that the country could lose out on investment, job creation, technologies, and business opportunities associated with the life cycle of intellectual property creation.
Sacci welcomed the Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property in principle, because it was necessary to have a discussion on the long-term plans for intellectual property. However, it was necessary to keep in the mind the highly sensitive nature of intellectual property.
Sacci said it had submitted its comments on the draft policy. Thursday is the last day for public comment.
The bill will affect various industries including mining, agriculture, broadcasting, music, and public health. It seeks to amend the protection, copyright, trade marks and designs acts by including provisions which aim to recognise and protect traditional knowledge.
Sacci said the policy seemed to suggest that the rights of intellectual property holders had to be reined in, instead of exploring the opportunity to strengthen their position.
“Similarly, the subtext of the policy is that government faces various challenges in its regulatory relationship with IP holders, whereas documented experience with authorities... has shown that industry stakeholders in South Africa also face problems that inhibit IP creation and economic activity.
“Fortunately, the state of affairs can be remedied if the dti (department of trade and industry) is willing to consider the perspective of the private sector in this regard and capture these experiences,” said Sacci.
The Treatment Action Campaign on Thursday said the draft Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill would affect health and the cost of medicine.
“This policy is not just about legal technicalities. It will directly affect the health and lives of many millions of people,” TAC Gauteng secretary Andrew Mosane said in a statement.
“By fixing the patent laws, South Africa can lower prices of existing medicines, and also create incentives for the development of new and improved treatments to tackle the diseases people live with every day,” he said.
The Fix the Patent Laws campaign, run by the TAC, Doctors Without Borders, and Section27, would hand its submission on the bill, supported by 130 international organisations and experts, to the dti on Thursday. - Sapa