New patents policy the wrong cure for improving access to medicines
Collaboration and innovation rather than property expropriation will drive down the price of live-saving drugs
The long-awaited draft intellectual property (IP) policy, recently published by the Department of Trade and Industry, proposes several key reforms. The aim is to introduce changes that will make it more difficult to register patents, easier to "break" patents, and to limit the remedies available to patent holders. The draft policy correctly points out that "knowledge, innovation and technology are increasingly becoming the drivers of progress, growth and wealth. Therefore, SA needs to transition towards a knowledge economy, and away from overreliance on natural resources. A specific framework of conditions is necessary to enable SA to make this transition, and an IP policy is one of the core elements required to achieve this objective." However, contrary to the intention conveyed in this statement, the proposed policy changes will weaken the IP rights environment and have serious ramifications for SA’s economic growth and job creation prospects. For science, technology and innovatio...