In South Africa, the Traditional Knowledge Bill (or more accurately the Protection, Promotion, Development and Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Bill) was again in the spotlight in December 2016 after the National Assembly’s Science and Technology Committee called for written submissions. The deadline for those submissions was 16 December 2016.
The Traditional Knowledge Bill is the second dedicated piece of legislation in the last five years in South Africa to allow traditional communities the means to effectively commercialise their indigenous knowledge. The first was the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act which was signed by President Zuma in December 2013 but which is not yet in force because of a delay in producing associated regulations.
In East Africa, the protection of traditional knowledge has been in play for at least the last decade. In 2009, for example, the Kenya Intellectual Property Institute set The Traditional Knowledge and Genetic Resources Unit to address the issues. More recently, an article appeared in Quartz highlighting the Maasai's efforts to get their brand back through a Washington based non profit group.
"The Maasai are saying that companies borrowing traditional designs and patterns of cloth and beading, as well as their name, should pay for the privilege or desist, just as Burberry would demand." according to the article.
In late January Zulu IP Holdings (Pty) Limited, acting on a mandate from King Goodwill Zwelethini, took further steps to assist the Zulu Nation protect and nurture its heritage and indigenous knowledge systems. It has appointed a foundation (the Ingqumunga Royal Foundation) created to best serve the Zulu nation, as its beneficiary.
“Until recently, Zulu cultural heritage has enjoyed little formal protection or central management and has been exploited not only in South Africa but beyond its borders. For example, use of Zulu imagery and expressions on theme parks, video games, airports, food and beverages across the world have allowed others not only to profit from the culture of the Zulu nation but to change the perception of it, because it has been uncontrolled”, says the King.
Zulu IP Holdings has devised an IP strategy to "put the genie back in the bottle" according to fellow blogger Darren Olivier and has already achieved success in commercialising Zulu IP through the appointment of Bayede Marketing (Pty) Ltd to commercialise and create value from the distinctly Zulu greeting "Hail the King" - BAYEDE - and a Royal certification. He tells me that there is a dedicated website explaining the position.
The Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative was set up by Light Years IP to educate and explain why it is necessary for users of Maasai imagery, expressions and association to pay royalties to the Maasai people. They estimate that millions are owed to them.
Kenya's legal protection for traditional knowledge is enshrined in legislation that came into force last year.
Maasai are fewer in number and famous for their customs and dress.