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South Africa Adopting Tougher Stance On IP Crime

by Robert Lee,, London

12 November 2008

South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Office of Company and Intellectual Property Enforcement (OCIPE) has announced that it is hosting the first South African Exclusive Judicial Conference for Judges on Adjudication of Intellectual Property cases from November 13-15, 2008.

Speakers include the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies; the US Ambassador to South Africa, Eric M. Bost; Louis Harms, Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa; Deputy Director-General for Consumer and Corporate Regulation at the DTI, Zodwa Ntuli; and renowned South African film-maker, Anand Singh.

The conference seeks to draw further judicial attention to counterfeiting, which the DTI said undermines the global economy and creates an underground network of contraband products, such as pirated CDs and DVDs.

As a member of the World Trade Organization, South Africa enacted the Counterfeit Goods Act, No. 37 of 1997, in response to the enforcement criteria of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. The Counterfeit Goods Act seeks to curb trade in counterfeit goods and protect owners of trademarks, copyright and certain marks, under the Merchandise Marks Act.

In announcing the conference, the DTI noted that incidences of intellectual property crime, such as counterfeiting and piracy, are increasing at an alarming rate, with tremendous costs to the rights’ holders and severe repercussions for the legitimate trading of genuine goods.

In addition, such cases adversely affect manufacturers, whose brand image and reputation are erroneously brought into question, the department warned.

The South African government warns that the impending 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup may also see a sharp increase in intellectual property-related crimes in South Africa, leading to an increase in such cases before the judiciary.

"The only viable solution to curbing these crimes is the effective enforcement and prosecution of offenders, and this calls for a coordinated approach to the implementation of the Act and related legislation," the DTI stated.

"As the custodian of the Act, it is imperative for the DTI to share valuable information on IP violations with the judiciary, to sensitise the country’s judicial experts to the increasing gravity and prevalence of these crimes, and continue to highlight the importance of relevant legislation that protects rights’ holders and the global consumer," the department added.

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