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American economist Joseph Stiglitz has pleaded with the South African government to resist US pressure to squash the plans for far-reaching intellectual property (IP) policy reforms set out earlier this year.
In a lecture at Wits University, Stiglitz said the draft IP policy was “one of the most advanced proposals I have seen. I encourage you to pass it.
“You will experience a lot of pushback from the US government. Other emerging markets will follow and they worry about that,” Stiglitz said.
“I’m not talking about anything specific, they just always do it,” he told City Press afterwards.
Stiglitz recently collaborated with the University of Cape Town’s IP unit on a paper making radical proposals for how IP should work in the future, making the overarching point that developing countries’ IP regimes should not be the same as developed countries’ ones.
“It is a myth that IP is at the core of innovation,” said Stiglitz.
In fact, patent laws often inhibit research, he added.
“IP rights are designed to reduce competition. In a knowledge economy, the cost of getting IP wrong is getting higher.”
Meanwhile, the department of trade and industry has received submissions on its draft policy ranging from celebration to vehement rejection.
The crux of the proposals is to make it harder to patent things and easier to challenge or get around patents when it harms the public interest.
City Press understands that US business groups have bashed the policy and called for the department to abandon it.
The draft policy’s first major proposal is to end South Africa’s depository patent system, which has led to South Africa granting patents more freely than just about any other country.
The department instead wants to create a substantive search and examination (SSE) system like those in India and Brazil, where applicants have to fulfil a set of patentability criteria.