In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Africa’s International Intellectual Property Law Regimes

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Historical Overviews
  • Access to Knowledge and Access to Medicines
  • Regional IP Institutions
  • Regional Integration, Trade Agreements, and IP
  • International IP Standards and Developing Countries
  • Innovation and Development
  • Biodiversity, Plant Breeders’ Rights
  • Traditional Knowledge

International Law Africa’s International Intellectual Property Law Regimes
Caroline B. Ncube
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0198


Intellectual property (IP) law is a knowledge governance system for creative works, marks, products, and processes that exists at domestic, regional, and international levels. National legislation creates economic and moral rights in works, marks, products, and processes. Generally, IP is categorized into two main classes, namely (i) industrial property and (ii) copyright and related rights. Industrial property encompasses patents, which protect product and process inventions; trademarks, which protect marks such as logos and brands; industrial designs; and geographical indications. Copyright protects creative works, including those of a literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic nature. Related rights protect performers, producers of phonograms or sound recordings, and broadcasters of radio and television programs. National IP legislation on each of these aspects is informed by binding international norms contained in agreements which the relevant state is party to. African states are party to several IP law regimes with other countries within the continent and beyond. International here means beyond continental borders, that is, arrangements for IP regulation with non-African state parties. This article outlines the literature on the engagement with, and participation in, international IP law regimes by African states and related literature on topical issues such as access, regional integration, international relations, innovation, development, biodiversity, plant breeders’ rights, and the protection of traditional knowledge. This work is based on the research supported in part by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa. Any opinion, finding and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the author and the NRF does not accept any liability in this regard.

General Overviews

The authors in Dreyfuss and Pila 2018 set out the social and normative foundations of IP, along with the emergence and developments of IP regulation in several regions including Africa. Frankel and Gervais 2016 is a detailed overview of international IP with a focus on international institutions and agreements. Gervais 2014 canvasses trade- and development-related aspects of the international IP regime.

  • Adams & Adams. Practical Guide to Intellectual Property in Africa. Pretoria, South Africa: Pretoria University Law Press, 2012.

    This practical country-by-country guide, compiled by a law firm with an African footprint, includes an overview of the international arrangements and institutional frameworks that each country is a party to.

  • Dreyfuss, R., and J. Pila, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Intellectual Property Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    This authoritative text includes in-depth coverage of the emergence and development of the international IP system as well as a consideration of the emergence and development of IP in the following regions: Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Central and Eastern Europe, ASEAN, East Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa, and South America. Available online by subscription.

  • Frankel, S., and D. J. Gervais. Advanced Introduction to International Intellectual Property. 1st ed. Glos, UK: Edward Elgar, 2016.

    DOI: 10.4337/9781783470501

    This seminal text provides a comprehensive introductory overview of international IP which traverses key international institutions and agreements governing IP at an international level.

  • Gervais, D. J., ed. Intellectual Property, Trade and Development: Strategies to Optimize Economic Development in a TRIPS Plus Era. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    Originally published in 2007; the authors in this second edition provide a revised discussion of the use of IP’s policy mechanisms to achieve trade and development goals. This is done within the context of the international framework and also with a regional focus in the second part, which includes a close look at TRIPS and TRIPS-Plus norms in the African context.

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