The overwhelming sentiment at the 11th World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) South Africa Summer School on Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, under way in Bloemfontein, was that local technological innovations are key drivers of socio-economic development.

 

The annual event is organised by the Department of Science and Innovation's National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition's Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), in partnership with the Japan Patent Office. The Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein is hosting the summer school, which runs until 6 December.

 

Addressing the opening on Monday, 25 November, Maria-Stella Ntamark from the WIPO Academy in Geneva said that no country should base its development on imported technological inventions from other nations.

 

"Every country needs to have a strong foundation of its own technology, created first through research and development institutions and then through established industrial affiliates. This summer school provides a platform to learn, share, exchange and question how our nations could benefit from technology transfer," she said.

 

Paballo Phiri, the Director responsible for Funds and Incentives Management at NIPMO, said that intellectual property (IP) had become a critical factor in ensuring socio-economic growth, and emphasised the importance of managing IP resulting from publicly funded institutions effectively. 

 

NIPMO, a specialised service delivery unit of the Department of Science and Innovation, is responsible for implementing the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act.  The Act aims to ensure that intellectual property emanating from publicly financed research and development is identified, protected, utilised and commercialised.

 

"The optimal use of intellectual property, as well as appropriate national and institutional intellectual property policies, will help nations in identifying and claiming legal rights and economic value for their IP," Phiri added.

 

The WIPO-South Africa Summer School, which focuses on intellectual property and technology transfer, is the only one of its kind; other WIPO summer schools convened around the world are more general in nature.

 

Drawing participants from across the African continent, the 45 students in the 2019 cohort represent countries like Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania.

 

More than 20 local and international experts from academia and the public and private sectors will be at the summer school, and Rory Voller, CIPC Commissioner, urged the participants to take full advantage of the presence of top-level experts in the field of intellectual property and technology transfer.

 

"I am confident that the WIPO Summer School will provide you with a platform to engage and acquire specialised knowledge that can add to your current areas of work. Given the rapid technological advancement in the 4th Industrial Revolution environment, it has become very important to stay abreast of all the changes," said Voller.

 

This year's event included learners in a bid to create awareness of IP at an early age. Nthatisi Matobako, a grade 11 learner from Tsoseletso High School in Mangaung, said that she had enjoyed getting exposure to a subject that was unfamiliar to her. She said it was interesting hearing about intellectual property, 4IR and the protection of brands.

 

Mojalefa Khoza, Senior Education Specialist at the CIPC, said that intellectual property should be part of the school curriculum.

 

"By the time learners complete the National Senior Certificate, they would have an understanding of the concept of intellectual property," he said.

 

The Summer School is designed mainly for postgraduate and senior undergraduate students, as well as young professionals. The programme includes lectures, case studies, simulation exercises and group discussions on intellectual property topics.