|The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry will hold hearings on October 19th and 20th on the Intellectual Property Amendment Bill, which aims to strengthen intellectual property rights relating to traditional performances, traditional work, traditional terms of expressions and traditional designs.The Bill has been widely condemned as sounding the death knell for traditional knowledge as it attempts to provide protection for Traditional Knowledge (TK) within a western intellectual property regime, originally developed for inventions such as machines.
Representatives from a community in the Eastern Cape, that has recently successfully challenged a patent on a lucrative medicine based on their traditional knowledge, will address the Committee on Wednesday morning to register their concerns with the Bill.
According to Nomtunzi Api of the Masakhane Community Property Association (MCPA) from Alice, Eastern Cape, our traditional authorities are given too much power by the Law. A Bill like this grants individuals ownership over community knowledge and we are concerned that traditional authorities will reap the benefits while communities remain in the dark.
This Bill has been criticised since it was first drafted as wholly inappropriate in that it treats traditional knowledge only as a commodity and ignores its usefulness in daily life, spirituality and culture. Furthermore, it grants individuals rights over communally held knowledge.
Haidee Swanby of the African Centre for Biosafety, working with the MCPA, explained that traditional knowledge is a living body of knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation and can be shared across communities and cultures. This Bill will not protect this knowledge from exploitation but will instead give an elite few rights while effectively removing useful knowledge from the public domain.
Henk Smith of the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) added that government had not ensured adequate consultation in the drafting of the Bill, saying that, it is not sufficient for the legislature to merely allow public participation, it has a positive obligation to take active steps to fulfil public participation. The LRC will request the committee to take steps to insure that a meaningful programme of public participation is followed.
The voice of the Masakhane Community will be one of the only rural voices heard in the process to date. We urge government to scrap the Bill and instead make provisions for an alternative system that recognises the peculiarities of traditional knowledge and customary law said Api.
You can download the full ACB submission from our website <http://www.biosafetyafrica.org.za/index.php/20101019334/ACB-Submission-to-the-Department-of-Trade-and-Industry-on-the-Intellectual-Property-Amendment-Bill-20-October-2010/menu-id-100029.html>