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Report on Social Justice Café: Intellectual Property (IP) Law and Social Justice

On the 27th of July 2022, the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice, Stellenbosch University, held a Social Justice café on Intellectual Property (IP) Law and Social Justice. The aim of the café was to explore the interplay between IP law and social justice, as well as ways to increase equitable access to IP knowledge across the board, especially the youth. In this respect, Prof Sadullah Karjiker, the keynote speaker, postulates that, "...while some consider IP as a stumbling block to social justice, instead, IP is a vehicle for growth through which we can combat ills."

Tajme Maharaj, a panelist, posited that in the age of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), IP gains much importance, especially where socio-economic rights are valued. Tajme encouraged young South Africans to become aware of their potential IP rights and the impact IP has on ideas developed in institutions of higher learning. Tajme approached the interplay between social justice and IP from various dimensions including technology, policymaking, transformative constitutionalism, the rights of local creators, access to IP information, impediments to exercising IP rights, and most importantly, lack of gender representation in IP ownership.

Jesse-Lee Wrensch of Michalsons Attorneys, approached the discussion from a pragmatic point of view; arguing that there are various challenges to IP and social justice, including lack of IP knowledge, high legal costs attributed to registering, and protecting IP works. Also, there is a handful of law firms skilled in registering various types of IP, and registration of different IP rights involves high levels of red tape, as well as costs of legal services when negotiating and reviewing contracts for IP works. Jesse-Lee argued, solutions to the abovementioned include increasing IP education and legal accessibility.

Kabelo Mutubi, a panelist from North-West University argued from the perspective of partial private-public ownership of IP rights. Kabelo posited that from an African perspective, communal cooperation is integral, however, such is not reflected in IP related legislation, furthermore, urging that the idea of communal IP rights should be given some consideration.

With regards to the point of gender representation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Prof Karjiker said that Stellenbosch University centre for IP, in collaboration with other faculties at the University, will soon host the first cohort of the IP for STEM students, in a bid to increase gender representation and increase accessibility to legal knowledge and information.

Consensus reached at the café was that there ought to be an extension of legal knowledge and information across other specialities and/or faculties; and those in the legal field need to contribute to making legal knowledge and services accessible by participating in pro bono work, while collaborating with law clinics and universities. Lastly, legal education needs to be more practical, rather than theoretical, in order to make difficult IP law concepts comprehensible to law students.

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By Chair in Social Justice team
Published 7 November 2022

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About the Chair:

Professor Thulisile “Thuli” Madonsela, an advocate of the High Court of South Africa, is the law trust chair in social justice and a law professor at the University of Stellenbosch, where she conducts and coordinates social justice research and teaches constitutional and administrative law.

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