Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, July 06, 2007

South African bill would change IP rules for publicly-funded research

Eve Gray, A new draft bill on IP rights in publicly funded research, Gray Area, July 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

We have known for a while that there was a [South African] bill in the offing on the management of IP in publicly funded research and this Draft Bill is now available for perusal on the website of the Parliamentary Monitoring Group. The Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, when he visited CET, said that there would be a period for comment on the Bill and, as this draft Bill does affect universities and researchers in universities, I am providing a heads-up for those of you who have a particular interest in the management and ownership of the IP in the research that you carry out.

I was half expecting a Bill on the rights of public access to publicly funded research, along the lines of discussions in the UK, the USA and the EU, among others, for access to research publication. South Africa is a signatory of the OECD Declaration on Access to Knowledge from Publicly Funded Research, so probably needs to enact provisions of this kind at some stage.

This Draft Bill is not along those lines at all. It appears to be about institutional and government control of the commercialization of research and provisions for any research that is potentially patentable. I have not had time to peruse it properly nor think through its implications....

Comment.  Eve is right that the bill focuses on patents and doesn't directly regulate public access to publicly-funded research.  However, it does regulate the copyright on works reporting patentable discoveries and appears to assign such copyrights and the associated patents to the discoverer's institution.  This could well affect public access to articles reporting the discoveries.