In the open letter to the Department of Trade and Industry below, we request a meeting with Minister Rob Davies to discuss (1) South Africa’s IP policy; (2) amendments that South Africa can make to its laws to facilitate access to more affordable generic medicines; and, (3) our concerns around the upcoming Africa IP Summit.
Dr Rob Davies
Minister of Trade and Industry
Private Bag 274,
Fax: 012 394 0337
Mr Mustaqeem de Gama
20 February 2012
Dear Minister Davies
RE: South Africa’s Intellectual Property Policy and upcoming Africa IP Summit
We would like to request a meeting with you to discuss the intellectual property (IP) policy under development, as well as, our concerns with the upcoming Africa Intellectual Property Forum: Intellectual Property, Regional Integration and Economic Growth in Africa (Africa IP Forum) in Cape Town from 3 – 5 April. Additionally we would like to request a copy of the draft IP policy.
In your letter, dated 13 September 2011, you provided details of the IP Policy that South Africa is developing. Your letter referred us to Mr Mustaqeem de Gama for further information. In email correspondence with TAC, Mr de Gama confirmed that a working document had been developed and that public consultation would be undertaken. We are concerned that months later we have still not received a copy of the draft policy or received details of how and when public consultation will be carried out.
Amendments to South Africa’s intellectual property law will have wide-reaching impact on medicine access and on the country’s ability to achieve the right to health. Given government’s constitutional obligation to ‘take reasonable legislative and other measures to achieve the right to [health]’, we argue that government has a constitutional obligation to ensure that the IP policy is drafted in a manner to promote and protect health. TAC has developed a briefing document on the specific amendments that South Africa can make to its Patents Act to protect health. The document is enclosed.
Additionally we would like to raise our concerns with the upcoming Africa IP Summit. The summit, which is being billed as a summit for Africa, is promoting policies in the interest of developed countries and the pharmaceutical industry. The initial agenda circulated for the event promotes expanded IP protections through enforcement mechanisms and anti-counterfeit laws. Ramping up IP protections and enforcement is not in the interest of South Africans, nor is it in the interests of our local generic industry. South Africa and other African countries should be amending their laws to utilise the flexibilities and provisions under TRIPS to protect health – not expanding IP provisions as pushed by the US, private companies and other wealthy countries ‘partnering’ on the event.
We therefore would like to request a meeting with you to discuss (1) South Africa’s IP policy; (2) amendments that South Africa can make to its laws to facilitate access to more affordable generic medicines; and, (3) our concerns around the upcoming Africa IP Summit. We would like to receive a copy of the draft intellectual property policy prior to this meeting for review and input.
We very much look forward to hearing from you and working together on these issues.
Acting General Secretary for the Treatment Action Campaign
Access and Innovation Officer for Médecins Sans Frontières South Africa