The Zulu kingdom aims to secure its traditional knowledge and the commercial benefits that can be gained from using distinctive features of the culture under intellectual property (IP) laws.
Law firm Adams & Adams partner Darren Olivier is working closely with the KwaZulu-Natal-based monarchy and job crea- tion enterprise Bayede Marketing to help establish and commercialise a distinctly Zulu brand. He tells Polity that Bayede wine, for example, which means ‘hail the king’ in Zulu, is endorsed by King Goodwill Zwelithini and is made in partnership with seven leading Western Cape- based vineyards, following an initiative headed by Bayede Marketing CEO Antoinette Vermooten.
“The neck of the bottle is also adorned with traditional Zulu beadwork, which creates employment opportunities for Zulu bead workers, who also receive a percentage of the profits from the sale of the wine,” Olivier explains.
He adds that the addition of the beads to the bottle helps enhance the value of the distinctly Zulu brand and is an excellent example of how IP law can be used to protect traditional know- ledge to generate revenue, either through royalties or by creating demand for a traditional product such as Zulu beads.
“A similar initiative took place in Ethiopia when its government and international coffee company Starbucks reached a mutually beneficial deal several years ago that created demand for Ethiopia’s coffee and by leveraging IP in their brands in exchange for the know-how and quality of Starbuck’s distribution network.
“Most people are unaware that IP is created continuously through intellectual endeavours. As a result, they do not know how to commercialise their IP,” Olivier explains.
He notes that there are other initiatives to secure Zulu IP and commercialise it outside the scope of traditional knowledge protection contained in the Intellectual Property Law Amendment Act (IPLAA), which was signed into law by President Jacob Zuma in December last year.
Olivier highlights that the Bayede initiative is a good example of how the current IP laws can protect traditional knowledge, which will be supplemented by traditional knowledge legislation.
“The IPLAA has attracted significant controversy, as it attempts to adapt current IP legislation to cater for traditional knowledge protection, which is not easy to implement. “Some of the difficulty regarding traditional knowledge protection is determining ownership and also the reciprocal protection in international IP. This is not the case though for the Zulu IP.
“If we have local protection for traditional knowledge, it is difficult to guarantee that it will also be protected globally in the same way because our legislation and our means of protecting traditional know- ledge may differ from other countries. Specialist IP advisers may be required in each country and government lobbying may be required,” Olivier explains.
He adds that much of the commentary surrounding the IPLAA will now move to how it can be implemented. “We do not know how it will be implemented yet, as the regulations have not yet been published but I am aware that the Department of Trade and Industry are making preparations for a traditional knowledge register,” he concludes.