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IP vital for sustained development

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At the Creating and Leveraging Intellectual Property in Developing Countries (CLIPDC) conference in Durban, Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom said that it is essential to ensure that a strong intellectual property framework is in place as South Africa moves from a resources to a knowledge-based economy, writes RAYMOND JOSEPH.

The conference is being attended by government officials, policy experts, academics and entrepreneurs from South Africa and Africa, and developing and developed countries.

‚”Intellectual property can be an effective lever for development, particularly for a country like ours, with the commitment we have made to migrate from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based one,‚” Hanekom said.

‚”Over the years, the engine of wealth creation has been shifting from physical, tangible assets to intellectual capital, or intangible assets, he said, adding that competitive advantage was created ‚”through the strategic management and use of IP.‚”

Countries that had introduced strong IP protection had flourished, Hanekom said.

‚”International benchmarking exercises clearly indicate that countries such as South Korea and China have developed their economies primarily through government intervention in their local systems of innovation to build on their competencies in manufacturing. There is a strong correlation between their economic growth and their patenting rate.‚”

The IP system was an important catalyst for developing an indigenous technology by Korean companies, several of which have become global market leaders. It has also seen the country transform poor farming economy in the 1960s, with a per capita income of less than US $100 to today’s highly industrialized country with a per capita income of US $12,000.

IP was a relatively new concept for many developing countries and public research institutions and South Africa had only passed enabling legislation in 2010, with the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), subsequently set up to implement the new Act.

‚”The introduction of this legislation was brought about by the realisation that South African publicly financed research institutions collaborate on a global scale with countries that have strong IP regimes. In cases where our IP regimen shows signs of not being watertight, IP may be lost through collaboration agreements,‚” Hanekom said.

Failures to protect IP could result in billions of dollars in lost revenue, he said, citing the dolos, invented by East London engineer Eric Merrifield to protect harbours by dissipating wave velocity.

‚”It was never protected and it is found all over the world today and is worth billions,‚” Hanekom said. Our efforts to create a strong IP regime are geared towards ensuring that such avoidable losses never again occur.‚”

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