Bio-economy, patents, and the commercialisation of traditional knowledge on the medicinal uses of plants in South Africa

Authors Emeka Amechi

ISSN: 1996-2185
Affiliations: Former postdoctoral fellow, College of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria; Senior Lecturer, University of Port Harcourt
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 30 Issue 2, 2018, p. 251 – 279


South Africa has identified the promotion of a vibrant bio-economy as integral to its quest to transit from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. Towards achieving this end, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) adopted the Bio-economy Strategy. The strategy recognises that South Africa’s unique natural capital of biological diversity combined with its wealth of traditional knowledge (TK), forms one of the country’s greatest assets, and hence, seeks to utilise resources towards advancing South Africa in the global economy. The strategy further recognises that the economic value of these resources can be enhanced by the use of intellectual property, particularly patents, in commercialising innovative products or inventions based on or derived from biodiverse TK. This article explores the use of patents in promoting the commercial use of TK on the medicinal uses of plants (TKMUP) in South Africa. Specifically, it focuses on the links as well as the challenges involved in using patents in promoting the commercial utilisation of knowledge in the country.