Kabir Bavikatte, Gino Cocchiaro and Johanna von Braun (Natural Justice) participated in the launching workshop of the Open AIR (African Innovation Research and Training: Exploring the Role of Intellectual Property in Open Development). The workshop was held in Cape Town from May 17-20 and attracted participants from different parts of Africa and some from beyond the continent. The workshop sought to kick off the 3-year Open AIR project, which is supported by IDRC and GIZ. It seeks to address the questions, “What is the relationship between innovation, development and “openess”? What are the enabling conditions, and how do they interact?
Specifically, the workshop attempted to bring together individuals and institutions from across Africa working on questions such as the role of intellectual property in supporting or hindering openness and innovation and how shifting economic, technological, and environmental driving forces impact the development of African intellectual property law and policy. The workshop discussed a variety of case studies ranging from traditional knowledge commons to innovations in the informal sector. The case studies generated interesting discussions on openess, the nature of property, and markets. One of the objectives of the Open AIR project is to work with researchers in South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Nigeria to look at the concept of traditional knowledge commons, specifically in the context of how traditional knowledge is used and shared by communities in Africa, and whether existing intellectual property systems or sui generis systems adequately respond to the concerns of these communities.