“The University of Cape Town’s Unit on Intellectual Property Law and Policy intends to establish itself as a new force in Intellectual Property Law and Policy within South Africa and to make its presence felt on the international stage. We believe that our presence will assist in developing IP Law and Policy in Southern Africa and that we can influence the manner in which this topic is treated in the emerging and developing countries.
Intellectual property protection has changed dramatically in the last very few years as countries and individuals seek to extend the range of protection to many new discoveries and inventions. The enormous growth in our understanding of biology and the ability to harness the vast range of information that is being provided through genetic databases and sequencing has led to a huge increase in patenting of new products and ideas in the developed countries, with developing countries lagging far behind. It has meant that new ways of protecting ideas have had to be put into the existing Intellectual property envelope. The rise of the Internet and electronic information systems has had a dramatic effect on copyright protection. The vast range of personal information, whether medical data or personal information including information on financial status and bank accounts, stored in electronic form has meant that new forms of protection of the rights of individuals and the protection of privacy have also had to be incorporated. Ethical principles have to be reformulated or reinterpreted when rights to benefit from new ideas interact with rights to privacy and dignity.
The emergence of new digital information technologies, such as the Internet, has had a significant impact on copyright and related rights, and the copyright industries such as music, film and software throughout the world. The international copyright laws have been updated for the digital age through the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). The new technologies that allow entertainment (both audio and video) to be transmitted through electronic means and easily copied and shared means that new challenges to IP protection are being encountered on a daily basis, and the IP system may not have the capacity to adapt easily. Copyright laws that criminalise infringement may need rethinking if the vast majority of the population in both developed and developing countries copy music or video information on a daily basis!”
Prof Julian Kinderlerer, Head of the IP Law & Policy Research Unit