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The announcement that the Cabinet has approved the Draft Intellectual Property Policy of the Republic of SA: Phase I — to give the formal title — was made in a few terse lines embedded within the official account of its meeting on August 1. On the heels of this announcement, the detailed draft policy was released by the Department of Trade and Industry a week later. At 38 pages and full of arcane technicalities of intellectual property law, it isn’t exactly light reading. And given that the report was released on the evening of the no-confidence motion against President Jacob Zuma, it’s understandable that you may have missed it. But none of this should confuse you about the significance of what has just happened. As the first step in the culmination of a 20-year struggle, this policy offers the potential drastically to transform the landscape of life itself, in SA and across the continent. At the heart of the matter is government recognition of patent protection — a state-sponsored...

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