The Software Alliance has identified several areas of the draft National Policy on Intellectual Property (IP) as “worrying” and urges the Department of Trade and Industry to engage in an extended consultation period and a more concerted approach.

“The draft policy includes several provisions which could harm the development of a competitive marketplace in South Africa by undermining the protection afforded to IP right holders like the software sector,” says Darren Olivier, spokesperson for BSA in South Africa.

“While the policy may have noble goals, such as to create economic opportunities and promote innovation, its impact could have the opposite effect.

“Careful reconsideration in consultation with the software sector and other stakeholders is necessary in order to ensure this important legislative framework has the effect of spurring innovation, creating economic opportunities, and building an open and inclusive competitive environment for software companies in South Africa.”

BSA is particularly concerned with the draft policy’s provision on government procurement of software, which establishes unhelpful preferences for specific software models instead of allowing government bodies to choose from the vast range of technology choices that exist in the market.

In addition, BSA believes there are better ways to promote compatibility between IT products than to require companies to hand over their IP to the government. Instead, promoting interoperability among IT products in the country would ensure opportunities for locally-developed products and services while preserving companies’ ability to protect their IP.

BSA also encourages the government to do more to improve the enforcement of IP laws and regulations.

“South Africa must do more to support local companies that rely on IP protections in order to deliver jobs and contribute to local economies,” says BSA member and MD of Noctronet, Billa Coetsee.

“More time is needed for consultation with the industry in order to achieve a forward-looking IP policy in South Africa that will encourage competition and deliver economic growth.”

BSA | The Software Alliance announced recently that the number of reported cases of unlicensed software in South Africa was significantly higher than its EMEA counterparts. South Africa accounted for 22% of the total cases reported in the EMEA region in 2013.