Submission on the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research Framework

The AIDS Law Project (“the ALP”) takes this opportunity to thank you and the Innovation Fund’s Intellectual Property Management Office for facilitating and hosting the provincial consultation workshop held in Cape Town on 30 March 2006. My colleague Fatima Hassan and I found the event to be extremely useful in understanding the context within which the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) from Publicly Financed Research Framework (“the policy framework”) is situated. In addition, it provided us with an opportunity to float, consider and refine our formal submissions on the policy framework.

In principle, the ALP supports the need for – as well as the substance of – the policy framework. We welcome this crucial intervention of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and view it as an integral part of the state’s bona fide attempts to discharge its ethical and constitutional obligations. However, while we may disagree on the relevance and importance of rights in intellectual property (IP) in a developing country context, we nevertheless recognise the public interest in securing rights in IP in respect of innovations that result from publicly funded research. In addition, we support the need to ensure access to innovative products developed in this manner.

This brief submission considers only two of the four identified themes: industry sponsored research; and licensing and commercialisation of IP. In respect of the former, we only deal with what we submit should be deemed to be “publicly funded” research. In respect of the latter, we only consider the issue of how best to ensure that agreements entered into by inventors, institutions and industry (“benefit-sharing agreements”) are indeed in the public interest. Our submission is limited to those issues in respect of which we are best placed to comment. Our failure to deal with other matters should not necessarily be considered as a blanket endorsement of the policy framework’s approach to such issues.

IP Rights from Publicly Financed Research Framework – 2006 – ALP