SA to protect intellectual property rights

By Warwick Ashford, ITWeb London correspondent
Johannesburg, 14 Jul 2006

SA needs to address the issue of intellectual property rights (IPR) to create a secure environment that encourages and stimulates the development of new ideas, says science and technology minister Mosibudi Mangena.

"Accordingly, government is working hard to ensure good policies and legislation are put in place so that the intellectual property arising out of publicly-funded research is protected," Mangena told attendees of the annual National Innovation Competition (NIC) awards in Kyalami last night.

Mangena said Cabinet had already approved a draft policy on IPR from publicly-funded research and was now in consultation around drawing up relevant legislation.

Congratulating the 36 NIC finalists from higher education institutions around the country, Mangena said the competition supported by the National Innovation Fund was one of the ways government encouraged local innovation.

"The implementation of measures to ensure all innovators are guaranteed protection of their intellectual property will substantially contribute to bridging the gap between innovation and commercialisation," he said.


Top honours in this year's NIC went to Wernich de Villiers, of the University of Stellenbosch, for his mobile line trap tester designed to simplify the maintenance of high-voltage powerline carrier systems without interrupting the power supply.

Mangena handed over a cheque of R300 000 to De Villiers to help in the further development of the line trap tester and take the locally developed innovation to the world market.

The second prize of R200 000 was awarded to Gerrit Smith and Johannes Strauss, also of the University of Stellenbosch, for their solar-powered submersible water pump.

The R150 000 third prize was awarded to a team from the University of Cape Town for a personal tracking device that allows users to track anything via the Internet using a mobile phone.

Mangena said SA should emulate countries like Finland and South Korea in producing innovative products in the electronics and telecommunications sectors to ensure a successful migration to a knowledge-based economy.

"This is why government has identified support for innovation and the commercialisation of innovative projects as one of the critical areas of intervention," he said.

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