The Intellectual Property (IP) Unit in the Department of Commercial Law hosted one of the key annual global academic events in the area of IP in December 2013: “The Open African Innovation Research (Open AIR) Conference and Third Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest”. Nearly 300 academics, advocates, lawyers and government officials from 47 countries came to Cape Town for intense engagement on key public-interest intellectual property issues. Two path-breaking publications were also launched at the conference: Innovation and Intellectual Property: Collaborative dynamics in Africa, published by UCT Press, and its sister report, Knowledge and Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the future.
According to IP Watch, an influential Geneva-based publication, the conference is a who’s who of advocates in the access-to-knowledge and public-health fields who are interested in intellectual property issues.
“This event came at a crucial time when policymakers around the world acknowledge the need for more balanced and locally relevant IP laws that facilitate innovation and development, and respond appropriately to the challenges brought about by the digital age,” said Dr Tobias Schonwetter, director of the IP Unit.
The IP Unit strives to add an African voice to the global debate on IP-related issues. It aims to create a leading IP programme in Africa that translates cutting-edge research into excellent teaching and increases the number of highly-skilled African IP experts. The unit also administers the Open African Innovation Research and Training (Open AIR) Network, one of Africa’s largest IP networks, which seeks to investigate how IP regimes can be harnessed in Africa to facilitate innovation through collaboration – and to make processes more participatory, knowledge more accessible, and benefits more widely shared.
Featured image: An unusual element of the “Open AIR Conference” was a dramatic representation of research results.