Fix The Patent Laws

Fix the Patent Laws Coalition Partners make submissions on the Copyright Amendment Bill

Posted on | September 21, 2015 | No Comments

The Copyright Amendment Bill 2015 was recently referred to parliament for review, following its approval by Cabinet. The Bill was drafted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to reform the Copyright Act 98 of 1978. The Copyright Act governs the protection of copyright which – like patents – is a form of intellectual property.

The amendment of the Copyright Act is part of an ongoing process by the DTI to reform South Africa’s laws governing intellectual property. In 2013, the DTI released a draft National Intellectual Property Policy (NIPP), which according to the DTI would establish a framework for reform.

The NIPP was welcomed by the Fix the Patent Laws campaign as it committed to pro-public health reform of South Africa’s intellectual property laws. The Fix the Patent Laws campaign was launched in 2011 to advocate for full adoption of the flexibilities provided under the international Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (“the TRIPS agreement”) to protect health into South Africa’s national laws.

The primary focus of this Fix the Patent Laws campaign has been to advocate for reform of South Africa’s Patent Act 57 of 1978 as the primary legislation that impacts on the cost of and access to medicines and medical technologies. While reform of the Patents Act is an urgent priority, it is essential that reform of all other Acts are coherent with pro-public health reform of the Patents Acts and guided by the need to fulfill constitutional obligations – including the realisation of the right to have access to health care services.

It was surprising to many stakeholders that the bill to amend the Copyright Act was released prior to the finalised NIPP to establish goals and objectives of reform. In addition to releasing the Copyright Bill, the DTI informed parliament on 17 March 2015 that bills to amend the following Acts related to the protection of intellectual property have already been drafted and are pending approval by the Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies: the Patents Act, Copyright Act, Counterfeit Goods Act, Trade Marks Act, Designs Act, Merchandise Act, Unauthorized Use of Emblems Act, and Performers’ Protection Act.

16 September 2015 marked the close of the period for the public submissions on the Copyright Bill. FTPL coalition partners made submissions on the bill which are provided below. Key issues raised in FTPL partner’s submissions on the Bill are summarised below.
Read more


Posted on | August 13, 2015 | No Comments

Johannesburg/New York, August 13, 2015: A submission to the United States Government shows South Africa is facing pressure from the pharmaceutical industry to backtrack on intellectual property (IP) law reform that aims to improve access to medicines in exchange for eligibility for ongoing inclusion in the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF), SECTION27 and the Stop Stock Outs Project (SSP), as members of the Fix the Patent Laws coalition, are deeply concerned by such requests.

Last week, the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa (AmCham) explicitly requested that South Africa’s eligibility to benefit from AGOA should be contingent on the country abandoning certain intellectual property law reforms. The argument is contained in a submission to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and echoes a 2013 AmCham submission to South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the country’s Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (“the Draft IP Policy”).

Prominent AmCham members include some of the pharmaceutical companies behind the 2014 Pharmagate scandal, in which the U.S. and European pharmaceutical industry sought to delay South African IP reform by financing a covert U$600,000 campaign. Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said the campaign sought to restrict access to crucial drugs and called it “genocide”. At the time the Minister called on all South Africans to fight against such attempts “to the last drop of their blood”. Pharmaceutical companies implicated in Pharmagate and belonging to AmCham include Abbott Laboratories SA, AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly SA, MSD and Pfizer.

Read more

Business Day Editorial: Patents threaten access to vital medicine

Posted on | August 5, 2015 | No Comments

This editorial was originally published in the Business Day on 4 August 2015. The original editorial can be accessed at: 

ONE of the cornerstones of an effective intellectual property (IP) system is the examination of patent applications. After all, before approving an application, the “invention” in question must meet the legal criteria for what deserves to be granted a patent. Unless you believe monopolies are unreservedly beneficial for free trade and society more generally, you would agree that it is illogical to grant a 20-year patent without checking whether the “invention” is new and innovative.

Under the current “depository system” SA does not examine patent applications. If the paperwork is filed correctly, the patent is granted.
Read more

Parliament publishes Copyright Amendment Bill and revised Protection and Promotion of Investment Bill

Posted on | July 30, 2015 | No Comments

Copyright Amendment Bill, 2015

On 28 July 2015, Parliament published the Copyright Amendment Bill for public comment. The Bill, which will amend the Copyright Act 98 of 1978, can be found online here. Submissions on the Bill can be emailed to Meshendri Padayachy at until Thursday, 27 August 2015.

Following detailed review of the Bill, the Fix the Patent Laws Coalition will publish comment on the Bill and make a submission to the Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee.


Protection and Promotion of Investment Bill, 2015

On 28 July 2015, Parliament published the revised Protection and Promotion of Investment Bill. The revised Bill can be found online here.

The updated Bill revises the Protection and Promotion of Investment Bill, which was initially published in 2013. SECTION27 and the Treatment Action Campaign jointly made a submission on the 2013 Bill and the IP provisions contained in the Bill which can be read here. Médecins Sans Frontières also made a submission on the Bill available here.

The provisions dealing with IP and compulsory licensing – commented on in the SECTION27/TAC and the Médecins Sans Frontières submissions – have been removed from the revised Bill.


Catholic bishops in South Africa join the campaign for affordable medicine for the poor

Posted on | July 13, 2015 | No Comments

This statement was originally released on 6 July 2015

The Justice and Peace Commission for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has raised serious concerns about patent laws in South Africa that severely diminish the financial capacity of the health department to purchase new and more effective drugs for the public health care.

Says Commission Chairperson, Bishop Abel Gabuza: “As a country we need an innovative approach that effectively balances protection of the poor and the ability of pharmaceutical companies to recover costs and make reasonable profit off the medical products they make. Intellectual property protection, as it currently prevails in South Africa, fails to achieve this balance. It makes new and more effective medicine financially unaffordable for the health department and therefore unavailable to the millions of poor people in South Africa. ”

Read more

Doctors Without Borders responds to the EU’s submission on SA’s Draft National IP Policy

Posted on | July 3, 2015 | No Comments

In September 2013, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) released a Draft National Policy on Intellectual Property for public comment. During the public comment period, the DTI received more than 100 submissions on the IP policy. [1] The submissions received by the DTI – which were leaked online – can be viewed at The submissions made to the DTI included a submission by the European Union (EU). Worryingly, the EU’s submission called for the adoption of TRIPS Plus protections [2] – in excess of what is required by the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (‘the TRIPS agreement’) and currently provided for in South Africa’s national legislation.

The adoption of TRIPS Plus protections in the country would severely limit access to affordable medicines.  Further, the EU’s recommendations for the adoption of TRIPS Plus provisions violate the ‘European Parliament resolution of 12 July 2007 on the TRIPS Agreement and access to medicines’ to not promote TRIPS Plus measures that will negatively impact on public health in developing countries. [2]

The EU’s submission on the policy can by read here. Doctors Without Border’s response, outlining our concerns with the EU’s recommendations, can be viewed here.

Read more


Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

Expanded coalition calls for urgent approval of National Policy on Intellectual Property

JOHANNESBURG, 2nd JUNE 2015: Today, patient groups and other leading health organisations in South Africa have joined the Fix the Patent Laws campaign to push for reform of the country’s current patent laws that severely restrict access to affordable medicines for all people living in South Africa. Together, they call on the government to urgently finalise a National Policy on Intellectual Property that champions measures to reduce prices and increase access to a wide range of medicines for people in need across South Africa.

Twelve organisations have joined the Fix the Patent Laws campaign in calling for progressive patent law reforms. These organisations are: People Living With Cancer (PLWC), the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), DiabetesSA, CanSurvive, the SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH), Stop Stock Outs, the Cancer Association of Southern Africa (CANSA), the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Alliance (SABDA), the South African Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance (SANCD Alliance), Marie Stopes, Epilepsy South Africa and Cape Mental Health.
Read more


Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

THURSDAY 5th FEBRUARY, CAPE TOWN: Yesterday, on World Cancer Day , People Living With Cancer – a South African support group representing thousands of patients – publically signed on to support the Fix the Patent Laws campaign. The campaign aims to ensure access to affordable medicines for all people living in South Africa including those affected by cancer. The campaign was started in November 2011 by the Treatment Action Campaign, Doctors without Borders and SECTION27.

“Often the price tags on cancer drugs in this country are unacceptably high. Newer, more effective medicines can be so expensive that sometimes they are completely unavailable to patients in the public sector,” said Linda Greef of People Living With Cancer. “Even private medical aid schemes can refuse to cover the medicine in full because it would raise premiums for all members. The lucky ones are forced to pay out of pocket or battle with medical aid schemes to get access to the right drugs. Others are simply unable to access the medicines that would save or extend their lives.”
Read more


Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

JOHANNESBURG, Tuesday 20th January: The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SECTION27 applaud India’s decision to reject a patent application on sofosbuvir, an important new treatment for Hepatitis C. Last Wednesday’s decision paves the way for increased access to more affordable sofosbuvir in India and other countries who choose to implement legal flexibilities available under international law to increase access to the drug. However, existing patents on sofosbuvir in South Africa could block access to the cheaper generic versions that will become available due to the ruling.  The government should therefore urgently finalise the national intellectual property policy to allow South Africa to better protect access to medicines.

Hepatitis C is a curable disease that affects over 185 million people and leads to nearly half a million deaths worldwide each year. As many as one million people in South Africa may be infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Sofosbuvir has fewer side effects, is easier for patients to take, and has higher cure rates than existing treatments. However, sofosbuvir is not yet registered or available in South Africa, and existing patent barriers could hinder the country from looking for multiple generic sources of the drug in order to get the most affordable prices.
Read more

Open Letter: Promoting Access to Affordable Medicines in South Africa through Patent Law Reform

Posted on | June 15, 2015 | No Comments

17 October 2014 – Open letter to President Jacob Zuma and Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies

This is an open letter from individuals and organisations concerned with the ability of people everywhere to have access to medicines which save lives and enhance quality of life. We are writing in support of the South African government’s longstanding efforts to revise their patent laws in order to better safeguard and promote the availability of generic medicines at more affordable prices. The international community is behind South Africa—as it has been in the past—to prioritise the lives and wellbeing of its people over the private interests of pharmaceutical companies.

We encourage the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to immediately release the final version of its National Policy on Intellectual Property, inclusive of clear language outlining reforms that advance South Africa’s constitutional right to have access to health care services.

Read more

keep looking »
  • About the Campaign

    fix the patent laws
    Fix the Patent Laws is a campaign of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). TAC is a non-profit organisation that seeks to ensure that every person living with HIV has access to quality, comprehensive prevention and treatment services to live a healthy life. Through this blog we will highlight how amending South Africa’s Patents Act 57 of 1978 will reduce the cost of medicines, improving the health and saving the lives of millions of South Africans.

  • Read the TAC and MSF campaign pamphlet

  • Latest tweets