South Africa: U.S., South African Partners Spotlight Intellectual Property Day

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"Each year South Africa loses billions of Rand due to intellectual property theft," states a poster that the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria used to raise awareness of the need for intellectual property (IP) protection.

In advance of World Intellectual Property Day April 26, the embassy partnered with several South African public and private sector groups including the Department of Trade and Industry, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, Proudly South African, Microsoft and the South African Federation Against Copyright Theft. The partners' goal was to raise public awareness about the damage intellectual property infringement does to the South African economy and its creative industries.

Intellectual property consists of inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, images, names, designs used in commerce and original expressions of creative individuals. The key forms of intellectual property protection are patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Intellectual property laws enable owners, inventors and creators to protect their property from unauthorized use.

The South African campaign links intellectual property to the prosperity of creative industries. The involvement of industry, academia and government exemplifies the comprehensive, multi-stakeholder approach that Embassy Pretoria has highlighted as the most effective way to raise public awareness of the need for IP protection.

The partners hosted free film festivals celebrating intellectual property rights at the universities of Stellenbosch and Pretoria. The festivals included a press round-table discussion, free intellectual property consultations for students by university law professors, and exhibitions of South African products. The partners also participated in television and radio interviews. South African singer-songwriter Lira and other music industry personalities showed their support and joined the events.

The festivals also launched the partners' bold new antipiracy campaign, titled "Be Your Own, Buy Your Own," which encourages South African consumers to replace a culture of counterfeit with a culture of copyright.

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