The “i” in Knowledge


“… knowledge, unique to a given culture or society, which accumulates over generations, as communities interact with their environment …”

Even though certain manifestations of indigenous knowledge have already been recognised and protected by the Patents Amendment Act of 2005, the President recently assented to The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act 28 of 2013 which was published in the Government Gazette on 10 December 2013 (hereafter referred to as “the Act”). The Act will only come into operation on a date fixed by the President by proclamation in the Gazette.

The function of the Act is to provide for the recognition and protection of certain manifestations of indigenous knowledge as a species of intellectual property. The following are to be amended:

  • The Performers’ Protection Act of 1967

to provide for the recognition and protection of performances of traditional works, by providing copyright protection to the performance of a traditional work, whether it is in the form of  an artistic work, dramatic work, literary work or a musical work as defined in the Copyright Act;

  • The Copyright  Act of 1978

to provide recognition and protection for indigenous knowledge by providing the indigenous community from which the knowledge/work originated and acquired its traditional character, the right to authorship and the right to receive royalties and benefits associated with the economic exploitation of the works;

  • The Trade Marks Act  of 1993

to provide for the recognition of indigenous terms and expressions and for the registration of such terms and expressions as trade marks and to provide for further protection of geographical indicators, collective trade marks and certification marks in so far as they relate to indigenous cultural expressions or knowledge; and

  • The Designs Act of 1993

to provide recognition and registration of indigenous designs which can either be an aesthetic or functional design with an indigenous or traditional origin and a traditional character.

The Act also makes statutory provisions which provide for the establishment of a National Council in respect of indigenous knowledge, a National Database for the recording of indigenous knowledge and a National Trust and Trust Fund for the purposes of indigenous knowledge.

Ultimately the Act aims to empower communities and prevent exploitation of their knowledge. Communities will be able to form business enterprises in order to commercialise the traditional knowledge and rightfully benefit from it economically. The Act has however come under criticism a more in-depth review of certain aspects of the Act will follow in future.

Should you have any queries relation to Indigenous Knowledge, please feel free to contact us and one of our specialists will assist you.