Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LISA HNATOWICZ
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LISA HNATOWICZ

Jasson Urbach’s claim that "robust IP [intellectual property] protections will foster local innovation and attract committed investors who can drive SA’s economic growth and human development long into the future", is not borne out by a cursory review of economic history (New patents policy the wrong cure for improving access to medicines, September 13).

In the 2004 edition of Trade Secrets: Intellectual Piracy and the Origins of American Industrial Power, Doron Ben-Atar writes about a young US that "smuggling technology from Europe and claiming the privileges of invention was quite common and most of the political and intellectual elite of the revolutionary and early national generation were … involved in technology piracy."

The intellectual sleight of hand behind Urbach’s and his committed investors’ dogma was well explained by Friedlich List in his 1885 National System of Political Economy when he said: "It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him….

Any nation which by means of protective duties and restrictions on navigation has raised her manufacturing power and her navigation to such a degree of development that no other nation can sustain free competition with her, can do nothing wiser than to throw away these ladders of her greatness, to preach to other nations the benefits of free trade, and to declare in penitent tones that she has hitherto wandered in the paths of error, and has now for the first time succeeded in discovering the truth."

Dr Velaphi MsimangMonument Park

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