Intellectual property law through African lens

27 July 2009

Dr Braun "When the opportunity arose at UCT to come here I took it." - Dr Johanna von Braun.

Von Braun comes to UCT armed with a BA (Hons) in international relations with development studies from the University of Sussex in the UK, a master's in international affairs from Columbia University in New York, and PhD in Law from Queen Mary College, University of London, in the UK.

"I wanted to do further research, with a strong policy orientation, in the field of intellectual property law and its implications in sub-Saharan Africa," she adds. "When the opportunity arose at UCT to come here, I took it."

Von Braun's research examines two specific topics which fall under the broader field of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and development. The first relates to public health, and how IPRs affect access to affordable medicines in developing countries.

The second focuses on questions concerning ownership of biological resources and traditional knowledge.

"Both topics are of major relevance to South Africa," she says.

Von Braun has accumulated extensive work experience in civil society organisations in the area of IPRs, trade, and sustainable development.

More recently, she was part of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development's Programme on IPRs and Sustainable Development.

After arriving in South Africa in January 2009, Von Braun began her collaboration with Natural Justice, a South African legal non-profit organisation that works on the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Southern Africa. She also continues to work as a consultant for different UN and civil society organisations on access to medicines, and teaches a course on intellectual property and development.

"So far I've had a very good experience at UCT," she says.

As for the future, Von Braun is content to wait and see what happens.

"I believe my stay here will allow me to either remain in academia or work in my field for NGOs or international organisations. But for the time being, I am keeping my doors open."

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